“Welcome back. I hope you’ll have something new to show me today,” the black dragon announced in a voice that echoed throughout the room.
Sila didn’t reply as he simply nodded. He looked around, observing the waiting room. This marked the third time he had come to this place, which he hoped would be his last.
Spotting the bloodstain from his last visit, he felt relief. It seemed the intel he had gotten was true.
He didn’t think that the method would be so easy. Well, people sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees. If he wasn’t told the method, the difficulty level of the trial would be unbelievably high.
Sila clenched his fist, digging his nails into his flesh. Then, he flicked his hand, spraying his blood toward the dragon. It quickly moved away to evade before glaring at Sila, its eyes showing surprised expression.
Sila nodded. “The scale that I dropped my blood on is just a gateway for me to come find you. I need to place my blood on your actual body in order to claim you as mine. This means it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, just coming into contact with a drop of my blood is an instant loss for you.”
“Did the Chaos Emperor Dragon tell you that?”
Sila shook his head. “He only said that using the Dragon Record is enough to win against you. Though that was the troublesome part since the Dragon Record has already transformed into the Slime Record.”
The dragon twisted its body. It looked at Sila and released a sigh. “So you have the Royal Record in your possession. Now I see why the Chaos Emperor Dragon deemed you as someone worthy of wielding me.”
Sila was still vigilant. He took a short step as he continued, “At first I didn’t know that this book is called the Royal Record. Fortunately, Varee has a high-level inspection skill. Although its tier isn’t as high as the skill Bluebird has, it was enough to inspect the book and discover its other usage. It turns out that the Royal Record is an item that will change its name and its abilities according to the holder’s race. For the slime race, the holder can collect skills performed by other slimes. For the dragon race, the holder can access the details of any dragon that they look for in the book. I had Vata hold onto it for a while, and once I described you, your information soon showed up.”
The dragon moved in a circle and appeared behind Sila. It said, “You shouldn’t know anything about me.”
“I didn’t at first, but you gave me too many hints, Zarnak the Cursed Dragon.”
The dragon snaked around Sila and stared at him directly from the front. “...How did you find out? I have never made an appearance in the world as a dragon.”
Sila swept his eyes around, following Zarnak’s movements. “Because I know more about dragons than you think I do. Dragons are elite monsters. When I encountered them, the system would notify me. The fact that you directly showed up in my waiting room without notice implies that you’re a psychic-type. Many players would find it impossible since dragons are magic-type mythical creatures. However, if even qi-type dragons can exist, why can’t there be a psychic-type one? Your information showed up as soon as we searched for psychic-type dragons. It turns out that you’re the only psychic-type dragon that has ever appeared in Monster Soul.”
Zarnak’s laughter reverberated throughout the room. Just its mental oppression alone could cut Sila’s flesh, though it wasn’t as dangerous as the last time. This outcome prompted Zarnak to become aware that Sila had learned how to resist its power.
Sila stabilized his mind, not swayed by the fearfulness of Zarnak’s transcendent oppression. The dragon grated its teeth together and stuck out its tongue, licking its lips. Its scales rose up, showing the sharpness that could slice Sila and turn him into rags with a mere touch. Even so, Sila wasn’t afraid.
Sila observed the dragon’s actions. “Usually, Dragon Scales strengthen the user’s stats and grant them additional abilities. Demonic Dragon Scales is a psychic-type skill. It highly strengthens the user’s stats in proportional to the opponent’s fear and makes the opponent’s dragon-race passive skills unusable when coming into contact.
“Dragon Domain grants the dragons the ability to create their own terrain. However, you aren’t a magic-type dragon, so the skill was replaced by something else, similar to how Rex has Tiger Dragon Qi. For you, it’s a psychic-type skill, Executing Dragon Eyes, which can nullify dragon-race active skills and inflict damage to the targeted dragon at half the amount of magic power they used to activate the skill.
“Once I got my hands on your information, I then realized why all dragons fear the Chaos Emperor Dragon...”
“...Because I’m the dragon who exists to slay other dragons. I possess the abilities to kill even Infernee, the so-called Immortal Dragon. You know this, yet you still dare to challenge me?”
“The more I fear you, the stronger you’ll become. I wouldn’t stand a chance if you were an actual dragon with a physical form. However, the current you is in a half-weapon state. If I can simply claim ownership, I win.” Sila pointed at the pool of blood on the corner of the room. “Moreover, things are in my favor. My blood in this room won’t disappear as long as you’re here. That means as long as I don’t give up and gradually increase the volume of my blood in this room, you’ll ultimately end up with no space left to live. My success is inevitable. This trial doesn’t test my fighting ability, but measures how many times I’m willing to die without giving up. That’s the true aim of the trial.”
“The trial is testing your unyielding determination and the courage to advance into the unknown... Yet you know the answer beforehand. Isn’t this against the trial’s purpose?”
Sila shook his head. “You never forbade me from discovering the answer beforehand. You can’t blame me.”
Zarnak looked at Sila from his head to his toes. “Your body contains approximately five liters of blood and this room is quite spacious. You’ll have to die hundreds or thousands of times before I have no space left. Each time the pain you experience will be different. Are you mentally prepared?”
“I have the Lordship of Time, enabling me to reduce my respawn time. I come here to die, come back again, and repeat. Dying from dropping my blood on the scale only decreases my level by 10. My rank won’t be demoted. I’m prepared to die. No matter how many times it takes, be it a hundred or a thousand, I’ll come back again. Time is short. I’m urgently in need of the Demonic Armament.”
A roar reverberated. Zarnak slithered through the air at a speed that Sila’s eyes could follow but his body couldn’t. His body turned into bloody mincemeat scattered all over the room. His blood sprayed over like rain. The dragon stared at the rain of blood landing on its body with eyes showing some hint of gentleness.
“...Since you said time is short, let’s not waste it. The current you might just be a rough mineral, a rock, or worthless dirt. However, I’ll melt, smith, and sharpen you until you become an excellent sword—until you become the strongest weapon in Monster Soul...”
That was the last thing Sila heard before he disappeared from the room with a frown, believing he was being satirized. In any case, he was glad. Finally, he had become the second player next to the Tiger God to truly possess a Demonic Armament. Although Sila was not aware of it, this was the linchpin setting off a series of great changes in his life that the him from before he entered the game would never have been able to consider.
Sila regained consciousness in the Mansion of Secrets since he had died in this place. It was a special dimension separated from the outside world, thus he revived here.
His memory of what had happened a moment ago was hazy like a dream. His brain wasn’t yet fully awake, though the leftover pain constantly reminded him that what he saw had truly happened.
He had already overcome the trial to conquer the Blade-Sharpening Dragon.
Zarnak, the Cursed Dragon, floated up from Sila’s shadow. Its body was as large as his bedroom, so many appliances in the room broke by its long body when it fully emerged.
“Conquering me is equal to conquering my power. On your command, I shall activate my skills from inside you.”
Sila felt delighted. With Zarnak’s Demonic Dragon Scales and Executing Dragon Eyes in his possession, it meant he held an extreme advantage over opponents of the dragon race. They could no longer use dragon-race skills in his presence.
“So these are the abilities I got from equipping the Blade-Sharpening Dragon, right?”
Zarnak snaked around the room, shaking everything inside and making cracks in the wall. Apparently, it seemed to be the type that didn’t like the idea of staying still.
“They’re only a part of my power. Those powers belonged to the Cursed Dragon part of me. As for the powers belonging to the Demonic Armament part, twenty percent of each of your resources will be suppressed in order to feed me, as I have no physical body...”
“I already know that. Twenty percent of my health points and special points, right?”
“...Health, qi, psychic, magic points, and also special points and Unison Percentage. In exchange, I’ll sharpen and push you to the very pinnacle of Monster Soul, similar to what the Chaos Emperor Dragon had reached.”
Even after listening to Zarnak’s explanation, Sila still failed to understand. “Can you please explain more?”
“I’m a Demonic Armament. For all equipment you wear, if they have any negative effects, I’ll be the one to bear them. You’ll only gain their benefits. I will also impart to you knowledge that will allow you to unleash your full potential. I can even push you into the bizarre world of Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part.”
Sila was greatly surprised. “How do you know about Flaming Cloud Qi? Moreover, the Nirvana Part is the part which no one has ever successfully wielded with the founder—the first generation Demon God—as the sole exception. I don’t think...”
Flaming Cloud Qi had a total of four parts—Foundation, Cloud, Flame, and Nirvana. The Demon Gods from each generation could specialize in different parts, resulting in diversity in their power. According to the record, only the first generation Demon God specialized in the Nirvana Part. Demon Gods of the later generations mostly specialized in the Foundation Part or the Flame Part. Only a few specialized in the Cloud Part like Mora.
“My weak master... I retain memories of my past owners. I can also determine the method to efficiently polish their abilities and put them to the best use. It’s the innate talent I was born with. I’m aware of Flaming Cloud Qi, Formless Martial God, Five-Attributed Cloud Qi, Heaven’s Decree Sword Art, and even the existence of Dark Self. If you prefer, you can even start practicing Omniscient Evil God Qi...”
Sila stared at Zarnak, feeling blown away. He could finally understand why Crow had said the twenty percent reduction was too low. If the dragon really did possess the talent it had mentioned, even if the price he had to pay tripled, he would still be willing to equip it.
“Ah... right. Since I already have my hands on the Demonic Armament, I’ll need the Elixir.”
Sila took the Elixir out from his system window, followed by the dragon egg and the four Soul Crystals. Zarnak took a look at them briefly.
“My foolish master, you still have four swords, right? Bring them out.”
“Hm? Do you know what I’m aiming to do?”
“You want to create high-tier armor out of top-grade items through the art of alchemy. Nevertheless, you don’t have skills relating to alchemy. This means it’s not a method you came up with yourself and you want me to do it in your place.”
Sila placed the four swords on the ground before scratching his head. “Yes, someone told me to do this. Though I didn’t know before that you can perform alchemy.”
“I said I retain memories of my past owners. Before I was in the Chaos Emperor Dragon’s possession, I had been in the hands of many monsters—including gods and demons. I inherited their pieces of knowledge as I was the one teaching them how to bring out their potential. My wisdom might not be the best, but it surely is at least greater than yours, my moronic master.”
Sila couldn’t help but express his doubt, “Why do you have to keep nagging me? Saying I’m weak, foolish, and moronic.”
“I don’t understand your question... You’re genuinely weak, foolish, and moronic. What about my words was incorrect, my curious master?”
‘His tone didn’t sound mischievous at all. Could it be that he really didn’t intend to be sarcastic?’ Sila thought.
Zarnak ignored Sila as it stared at the items on the floor. “You have to remove your current armor too, my dull-witted master. Isn’t the armor what you want?”
“Oh, you’re right.” Sila unequipped the Mechanical Evil God’s Protection. Detaching from his body, it transformed back into a cross bag like it originally used to be.
“The Elixir is the connector. A high-grade armor is the core. A Gem of Catastrophe is the central energy generator. Weaved with the thread created by Eleanor the Raiment Dragon. Use four swords as weapons while the souls of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are additional components...”
Sila only just found out that the souls residing inside the Soul Crystals he got from Mamon belonged to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, he didn’t know what kind of beings they were even if he knew their names.
“Still lacking your blood to mark the armor as yours, my negligent master...”
“Enough. Just call me Sila. Or simple ‘Master’ will suffice,” Sila complained as he slit his finger.
“...Whatever, my picky master,” replied Zarnak. To be honest, Sila had a feeling that it tended to pay no mind to his words.
Unbeknownst to Sila, the actual reason why the Chaos Emperor Dragon removed the Blade-Sharpening Dragon and kept it away wasn’t because he didn’t like using weapons, but because he couldn’t stand its personality. Zarnak was one of the living weapons, and a very talkative one at that. In addition, its tone of voice was lifeless and devoid of emotion, like it was blandly reading from a script. It also liked to mock its master whenever it saw a chance.
The lid of the Elixir was removed by invisible force and the rainbow-colored liquid flew to fuse with Sila’s blood in midair. The tiny splash from the impact sprinkled on every other object. The Curse Dragon moved its body around three times to begin the alchemical process. All of the materials were then absorbed into the dragon egg, which Zarnak then proceeded to swallow whole.
“Eh?! Why did you eat it?”
“Dragon eggs can only be hatched by dragons. Alchemy is a procedure that requires time, so you’ll get to see your new armor tomorrow. Now, sit down and circulate qi through the acupuncture points I point out.”
“Circulate qi? Why?”
“Didn’t you just say you don’t have time, my forgetful master? I’m about to open the gate for you to enter the world of Nirvana, and also the world of Omniscient Evil God Qi...”
Sila sat down on the floor, still feeling distrustful. “Can you really do that?”
“If things go smoothly, you’ll unlock the full potential of all of your half-baked powers in three days...”
“Just in three days?” Sila became even more doubtful than before. Things shouldn’t be that easy.
“Unless you plan to interrupt my speech every single minute, in which case the process may take months or years, my ever-interrupting master...” Zarnak said with a voice that held no emotion at all.
The dragon flicked its body and sent its scales to attach to parts of Sila’s body. It repeated the action several times on other parts of his body, prompting Sila to circulate qi according to the points it specified.
After following the suggested circulation method for a while, Sila stopped. He realized that this circulation pattern was unique as it didn’t belong to any of his qi arts—be it Omniscient Evil God Qi, Profound Qi Circulation Art, Five-Attributed Cloud Qi, or even Flaming Cloud Qi.
“What is this qi art? Didn’t you just say—?”
Zarnak fell into silence. It paused its action and squinted its eyes, glaring at Sila. “Aren’t you in a hurry? I’m leading you through the shortest and most efficient route for your cultivation. Your qi arts are all over the place. Even though some of them have been merged thanks to Flaming Cloud Qi, you must know that Flaming Cloud Qi is ultimately a qi art of the hot element. To master the Nirvana Part, you have to possess two polar opposite qi arts with equal strength. Now that your mastery over the Flame Part has far exceeded the Cloud Part, unless you intend to completely erase your entire inner force and start cultivating anew, you have to rely on a qi art of the cold element to stabilize your power. Only then may you enter the Nirvana of Samsara—the cycle of death and rebirth.”
“Practicing a new qi art? Will I be able to do that in a short time? Moreover, for me to cultivate a qi art that is equally powerful to Flaming Cloud Qi, won’t the same amount of effort and time be required? Do you know how difficult it was for me to achieve this level of mastery over Flaming Cloud Qi—?”
“You already possess a sufficient amount of inner force and a strong foundation. Just using a different circulation pattern is enough for you to obtain a new kind of power. It shouldn’t be difficult with the help of the Cloud Part. In any case, although I said you are going to rely on a different qi art, the art is none other than the reverse of Flaming Cloud Qi, practicing from the Flame Part to reach the Cloud Part in order to obtain the power of the cold element.”
“Isn’t randomly doing that dangerous? Every qi art has a specific circulation pattern. If we make even a slight error, it may lead to injuries or even my profound veins being crippled.”
“‘Understand the box to think outside the box’ is the tenet of the Flaming Cloud Dojo. So how come the dojo’s exclusive qi art can’t be modified in the application, my trapped-in-the-box master?”
Sila immediately comprehended Zarnak’s words. “I see! The tenet of the Flaming Cloud Dojo is ‘Understand the box to think outside the box’, but all Demon Gods of previous generations always practiced the art according to the scripture! This is what they say ‘Overlook the Obvious’—the reason why no one aside from the founder has ever mastered the Nirvana Part!”
“Since you have finally understood, let’s continue with your cultivation. Our time is short, right?”
“Sure, let’s do that. Thank you, my annoying dragon...” Sila closed his eyes and concentrated on circulating his power. Meanwhile, Zarnak fell into a short silence, seemingly shocked to hear that it was annoying. Then, it unleashed its psychic power to erect a barrier, preventing anyone from entering for three days.