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Teleportation using an invitation card had some delay but didn't take long. It took only a couple of minutes before the two arrived, prompting the start of the meeting.
It would take a long time before the war came to an end, so they agreed to keep exchanging intel on a daily basis. If a day wasn't eventful, they would just send messages. However, many things happened last night, so the need to call for a meeting arose. They needed to discuss what sort of future actions they should take.
Cross sat on a white chair made of metal. His body was still in an injured state from the last fight he had. Every time he spoke, an icy breath from Frost Demon Qi would come out of his mouth. Zazae's attacks were the kind that invaded and weakened a target, so it would take a while before the wounds healed.
“What kind of joke are you going to pull this time? Why the h.e.l.l did you bring a puppy into a meeting?” Cross scolded immediately after he spotted the two-headed black puppy in Sila's arms.
Sila was troubled. “I really have no choice. If I let go of it, it will die.”
“How about finding someone to remove the curse, Sila? I can contact my people to do that later,” Beluga proposed.
Sila wondered, “Curse? Why do you think it's suffering from a curse?”
“Hm? Based on how you described it, I thought it's a negative effect from some kind of curse. Was I wrong?”
Sila shook his head in denial and began to share the puppy's backstory, how it used to be a Lord Rank monster, but later its rank decreased and it suffered from the overflowing power of its own qi. That was the reason why he had to keep absorbing its power.
“It's not a curse, then. From what you just told me, it seems to be a kind of qi deviation. When something goes wrong in utilizing qi, the user's body will suffer from a backlash. In the case of this puppy, it seems its power stays at Lord Rank while its ability to control qi has worsened. If it's like what I'm thinking, the puppy won't recover no matter how long you keep at it.”
“How do I fix the problem, then?”
“Traditionally, the gap between qi and physique can be narrowed down by cultivating. However, that only works when the gap isn't substantial. Lord-Rank qi within a Squire-Rank body is too much of a difference. I suggest you feed it a Black Baby Mantra Ray or teach it how to circulate qi and how to let go of the excess power.”
“I see. Thank you for your suggestions.”
Beluga was a qi-type player like Sila, so he was knowledgeable when it came to topics about qi. On the contrary, Cross didn't join the conversation, only waiting for when they could start the actual meeting.
“Stop talking about a dog already. We're having big problems right now. Let's start with me. The situation on my side seems better at first glance, but overall we are still disadvantageous in various aspects, especially regarding technology as theirs completely outcla.s.ses us.”
Cross briefly explained how, together with Jundtrathep, he took down Zazae—though he deliberately skipped over some of the details—and placed the spoils of war he got from Zazae on the table. They consisted of the Spatial-Sealing Bracelet, the Dragon Tail Chain Whip, the Elite Dagger, and the Envy Card.
“This bracelet is the most problematic. I already had my men test it. When active, the bracelet will emit a sphere, usually around five meters in diameter, but this can vary depending on who uses it. I speculate it's relative to the level of the wearer's Psychic Mastery skill. Within the sphere, all skills and items related to dimensions will be sealed, including Crystals of Connecting, invitation cards, shunpo, or even Psychic Manipulation skill since its ability is quite ambiguous.”
“Why is it the most problematic?”
Cross frowned, feeling it was a waste of time to explain things to Sila. However, Beluga knew that Sila honestly didn't know the meaning, so he briefly explained.
“Cross is worried because psychic-type skills oftentimes work well together. Unlike qi-type players like us, a psychic-type player's strong suit lies in the synergistic effect of their skills, activating several skills at the same time. Thus, if one of their key skills is sealed, their overall fighting ability will drop sharply. Furthermore, psychic power is sensitive to changes. In the worst case, it won't just weaken but outright act up against the user.”
Cross ignored whether Sila understood the meaning or not. He continued before Beluga turned the strategy meeting into a cla.s.sroom for explaining psychic abilities.
“The bracelet won't work on the wearer if their Psychic Mastery level is above 80. Zazae had bad luck. He copied my skills when my Psychic Mastery's skill level was at 70. Unfortunately, Android Soldiers seem to be able to equip these bracelets and the level of their Psychic Mastery skill must be high. Our psychic-type players will have a very difficult time in the raid.”
Sila realized something while thinking about the strange bracelet. “But... if this bracelet really seals dimension-related abilities and all of the Android Soldiers equip one, won't that make them seal each other?”
Sila's doubt was natural. Would their abilities work against themselves and seal the dimension-related skills of the entire android squad? Cross also had the same doubt.
“We only have one bracelet, so we can't test that hypothesis. However, my guess is that each bracelet will protect the wearer from the effects of other bracelets, meaning their abilities won't be sealed. Well, to be sure, I want you to ask that boy to inspect it.”
Cross obviously meant Mamon. To be honest, he wasn't sure if Mamon was Sila's pet, partner, monster follower, or whatever, so he seriously wondered how he should refer to the boy.
“Sure, I will have Mamon study it. Have you set the schedule for when to attack Siaferia City?”
“We're currently testing the waters, dragging the raid on by attacking every couple of days, though we quickly retreated before the enemy mobilized a large army. It's to train my men to follow military orders and formations, including honing Tiger's leaders.h.i.+p skills. This way, the enemy will have a hard time predicting when we will do it for real. Unbeknownst to them, we will invade them from the tunnel. It should take around a month before it will be finished though.”
“A month? Will it be that long?” asked Sila.
“It's already too quick in my opinion. War isn't a short battle where victory is decided in a day. It's a long battle of wits.”
“Do you need my help?” Sila volunteered. His duties in Zhongsuyuan City had come to an end, so he was quite free.
“You'll only slow us down. If you really want to help, just wait until the raid day, and I'll even let you be a general of the spearhead units. For now, just wait, or go help Beluga instead.” Cross hurriedly rejected Sila's willfulness to help. He knew Sila was strong and capable, having insane battle sense and quick wit. However, he had heard that Sila was an ill-fated jinx, bringing calamity everywhere he went. He wouldn't dare to guess what kind of tragedy would befall his team if such a cursed person were to live in his military camp for a month.
Beluga showed a dry smile. The war event was a long game, but Sila was so quick with his a.s.signed tasks, clearing every one he was a.s.signed already and ending up with no immediate plans. Although Beluga wasn't like Cross, not believing in the superst.i.tion that Sila was a disastrous jinx, his guild focused on working as groups in a well-trained manner, so he would rather not add Sila into the current working system and make things complicated.
“The Mountain Thieves League's tasks are forming relations.h.i.+ps, spying, negotiating, and distributing commodities to various groups. I don't think these jobs suit you, Sila.” Beluga didn't blatantly decline. He honestly believed that the jobs were unfit for Sila.
Cross mused, “Your current status is dead, right, like Lone Wolf's? In that case, staying hidden will be more beneficial for the team. Attack when the enemy gets complacent. You can just spend time in the mansion. I will call you in a month when we're ready.”
“So, I should do nothing at all? Sounds like quite a waste though.”
“Better than pointlessly going outside and risking the truth getting out that you're still alive. Making the enemy think you're already dead can be one of our trump cards.”
Beluga suggested an alternative, “Why don't you join the Shadow Army, then? Just disguise yourself as an ordinary player wearing a mask. Or maybe switch places with Zero and the Sword Prodigy from time to time. Bluebird's movements will be more unrestricted that way. At least this is better than you doing nothing. Furthermore, it's likely that Colossia City will need reinforcements soon.” Beluga showed a stern expression. “My men just informed me last night about strange behaviors of monsters living in the Sky-Breaking Canyon. An army of goblins is moving to surround Colossia City as we speak while bird monsters are heavily a.s.saulting Belacia City. Also, there are weird fish attacking the Stone Forest. All of our important armies are having problems.”
The Wicked Union's key armies—Belacia City's army and the slime's army—were both being attacked at the same time. Even the new army—the Shadow Army—that no one should know is connected to the union, had been surrounded by goblins.
These events could simply be regarded as monsters going wild. However, for monsters to suddenly take offensive actions against three locations, with each belonging to the union, it was most certainly suspicious. Despite there being no evidence, Beluga's intuition screamed that this must be the work of an enemy.
He expressed this opinion to the two, and both Sila and Cross agreed without hesitation. The a.s.saults occurred at the same time Sila raided Zhongsuyuan City. The damage was extremely severe.
Cross nodded. “It makes sense. Both Belacia City and the Stone Forest are already under attack, but the most worrisome is the Shadow Army. That army is at the heart of our strategies. It is the key piece we need to turn the tables on Montra. If you really want to help, you should go to Colossia City as Beluga suggested.”
“Mn. Colossia City is surviving thanks to the fame of Zero and the Sword Prodigy. The army is not as capable as the other two armies.”
The citizens in Belacia City excelled at fighting against monsters. There were a lot of competent players armed with brains and fighting prowess. Sebastian, Asura, Franz, and the Eight Rulers were also there, so they would surely find a way to cope with the situation.
As for the Slime Kingdom, the place was completely unsealed. With the strength of the Slime King and the Three Slime Guardians, Sila wholeheartedly believed that they would definitely overcome the crisis.
Although he was more emotionally attached to the Slime Kingdom and Belacia City, Sila ought to act for the benefit of the union. He decided that he must go to Colossia City and do his best while believing in his comrades.
“Very well. I will travel to Colossia City immediately after I wrap things up on my end. I will see what I can do when I arrive there.”
“The last topic of the meeting is about the sudden announcement last night regarding the birth of a Demonic Armament and the introduction of seven more of them. This may be a problem for us,” Cross mentioned another issue.
“Indeed. Such an unpredictable factor is problematic to not only us but every side in this war. From the sounds of it, Demonic Armaments must be difficult for us to tackle. Let's just instruct everyone to avoid them. We'll wait until the war event ends before trying to conquer them. Well, we'll keep an eye on guildless players who want to collect them so that we can gauge the difficulty level of the feat.”
Sila hurriedly pointed at the mentioned Lamentable Dragon and explained. At first, Beluga and Cross thought it was a statue wearing a wuxia outfit, secretly thinking that Sila had weird taste in decorations. However, they soon panicked when Sila told them it was none other than the newly born Demonic Armament.
“Is it safe to put it in the mansion?” asked Beluga.
“Mamon told me it can convert ambient mana into qi, meaning it normally has unlimited power. However, he restrained it with his psychic ability to block that conversion. It's the item that can move by utilizing qi. Without qi, all it can do is stand still.”
The Lamentable Dragon swept his eyes, full of malice, over them. Noticing that the statue could move his eyes, a weak-willed person would have been shocked senseless. Cross couldn't help feel that Sila always had another strange possession to show him each time they met.
“What do you plan to do with it?”
“I will just let it stay like this for now. The current me can't possibly conquer it. The condition to conquer each Demonic Armament is insanely difficult. To avoid the risk of failing and dying, it's the best to postpone the idea, at least not attempting during the war event when you have only one life,” Sila replied.
The three eventually ended the meeting. Sila asked Julia to keep him updated about the monsters' a.s.saults on the three places.
Once he was alone, he summoned Zarnak. The black serpentine dragon spun its body, hovering around him.
Sila asked it how to control his power to not make it harm himself.
Zarnak replied in a languid manner, “My lazy master, to achieve better control, you must spend time practicing. Your power is a mix of three energies. Your qi and psychic power are outstanding, but the magic power counterpart is lacking. If you don't increase your apt.i.tude in this area, it will be like you are carrying a particular barbell, with weights called qi and psychic power while the bar is made of a fragile wooden branch called magic power. Only, the three of them are parts of your body, so the damage is constantly occurring.”
“I don't have time to spend practicing. To fight Montra, I need to be able to use my full power without reservation at the very least. Isn't there another method?”
“I didn't say there wasn't. What I suggested is the standard method, safe and effective, just requiring some effort and a lot of time. You're free to choose a different path, but do know that I am against the idea. You might be qualified, but it's unsafe.”
“If I have to wait until the predicted result is completely safe before doing things, I would have achieved nothing in my life so far. Just tell me. What is the different path you mentioned?”
Zarnak coiled around Sila, turning itself into a black dome. Sila felt he was floating in mid-air. He had experienced this before, so he was rather indifferent about it. Zarnak projected an image of a silver straight sword with an ornamental white hilt. Mana, in the form of silver vapor, was covering the sword, making its appearance blurry. Despite that, anyone could tell at first glance that it was a masterpiece weapon made with exquisite craftsmans.h.i.+p.
“The Demonic Armament, Dichotomous Crucifix Sword, is a powerful magical sword. It's a secret treasure hidden in a mysterious dimension. With its unique power signature, I could sense that it was one of the Demonic Armaments that appeared in the world. It contains mana within itself. Wielding it means you have mana reserves not inferior to a pure magic-type being.”
“Does something this good exist?”
“Absolutely. Subjectively speaking, it's a great Demonic Armament even considering its drawback. However, its last master caused other beings to find it dreadful. It's to the point which they all decided to throw it away from the Monster Realm.
“It's like me, growing stronger according to its previous masters. In fact, most Demonic Armaments grow stronger the more times they change owners. For me, it's about the experience. For the Lamentable Dragon, it's about fighting skills. For the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword, it's mana capacity. In any case, it's a combat-type, so you simply have to show that you're superior to its last master if you want to conquer it.”
“If it's that great, how come it's ownerless right now?”
“Its last master deliberately abandoned it. That person merely wanted to make use of its ability once, not desiring to conquer it. After that, no one ever overcame its trial.”
“To do such a thing... Who were they?”
Zarnak's reply was monotonous, but Sila could sense that it was mocking him. “That person was Lucifer, back when he was still an archangel. If you're confident that you're stronger than Lucifer in that era, you're welcome to try overcoming its trial. I will do my best to guide you. Just don't blame me and say I didn't warn you.”