“You can’t go?” Hyeonu’s eyes widened and filled with a strange expression.
Mason avoided Hyeonu’s gaze as he scratched his head and replied, “I’m stuck. I feel sorry to see Master.”
“Where are you stuck?”
Hyeonu wanted to give some help, but the answer he received was unexpected.
“I am stuck at stage 8. I don’t think I can clear it right now,” Mason denied it firmly.
The Mason that Hyeonu knew wouldn’t give up so completely.
‘How difficult can it be?’ Hyeonu wondered. Laek’s stage 8 was the stage where a monster appeared. Based on what Hyeonu remembered, it wasn’t too difficult. He asked curiously, “What came out?”
“A lycanthrope. It is in human form and very fast. I can’t use any magic. It just ends in the blink of an eye.”
“It reminds me of the old days. Is it like back then?”
Hearing the word ‘lycanthrope’, Hyeonu remembered that time when they went, at Mason’s request, to a dungeon where lycanthropes appeared.
“That’s exactly what is happening now. There is nothing different from that time. In fact, it’s harder because the lycanthrope has also grown in strength,” Mason said, shaking his head.
It wasn’t at a level he could clear with effort. He would be stuck here for the rest of his life unless he got an item or skill that drastically reduced his casting time.
‘I can’t be like Brother.’
If it were Hyeonu, he would’ve cleared it. He had the talent to do so.
“Then try this.” Hyeonu held out a small box. Mason took the box and opened it. The box contained clothes, including a small helmet. The smell of a set item came out instantly.
“What is this?”
“It is what I used previously. You can use Blink seven times when you’re wearing it. Isn’t this enough?”
The Great Canyon Wind leather armor set had a surprisingly low stats limit. Mason had high stats due to his level, good class, and various accessories, so he could wear the Great Canyon Wind leather armor set.
“Blink?” Mason was instantly lost in his thoughts. In his mind, the battle was already underway.
The lycanthrope rushed quickly at Mason. As a result, Mason hurriedly cast magic. The narrow space allowed the lycanthrope’s claws to hit Mason first before he could complete the magic. However, Mason didn’t die. The place where Mason reappeared was quite far from the lycanthrope, and he continued casting the magic.
Finally, the completed fire magic hovered around Mason. The lycanthrope turned its head and found Mason. Then it once again rushed toward him. However, this time it wasn’t easy for the lycanthrope to get to Mason’s side as blazing flames threatened the lycanthrope.
In the gap, Mason once again cast magic. Blue ice spears embedded themselves in the lycanthrope’s body. Then fireballs struck it over and over.
It was the end. The lycanthrope had strong attacks and fast movements, but its defense and physique were low. This prevented it from enduring Mason’s successive magic.
“Brother, if this is the case, I think I should be able to clear it?” Mason smiled brightly after the short simulation.
“Really? Then I’m glad. I’ll give it to you. In the future, you should give it to someone who needs it.”
“I know. Then I’ll see you next time.” Mason hurriedly ripped the scroll and disappeared from the capital.
‘I will go to Senu.’ Hyeonu also had an academy he needed to attend.
It was an academy superior to Laek—Senu.
Sunny, Lee Hoon, Yuri, and Dwayne all easily passed through Laek’s stage 2. However, due to their level, the experience value gained as the clear reward wasn’t large. Stage 3 was the problem. It was a gateway to test magic power control. Hyeonu had passed through it lightly enough to say it was ‘easy’.
‘What? Isn’t this easy?’ This was the common thought in the minds of the four people. Their confidence lasted for less than five minutes.
-In Stage 3, we will test magic power, which is the basis of everything.
Inject magic power into each of the three spheres in front of you according to the specified pattern. The given time is 60 minutes.
[Time remaining - 59:59]
A familiar voice rang in their ears. The content of this stage was quite different from the previous stages, but it was familiar to the four people. It was one of the missions of the competition for the arena players. This meant it was difficult. The stage’s difficulty had increased in an instant.
The four of them had a common reaction. They all sighed and frowned while placing their hands on the beads. It couldn’t be helped. Sighing wouldn’t allow them to enter the next stage. Still, this increased difficulty didn’t mean they could clear it. They just injected magic power meaninglessly, without even grasping the right pattern.
“Ah, shit! I can’t do it!” Sunny was the first to give up, and she flopped down onto the ground.
Just then, a friendly voice like that of a neighborhood grandfather rang out in the space: -The companion of a monster isn’t a monster.
Sunny was amazed and spun around, but no one could be seen. Then she heard the voice again.
-You won’t be able to see me. It looks like you’ll be coming this way soon. In the meantime, try hard. Isn’t that the only way there will be any gains?
The voice reminded Sunny of her determination.
‘I have to work hard so I don’t cause an inconvenience.’
However, having determination was different from creating results. After an hour of hardship, Sunny was eventually summoned to the space where Suped was located.
“Everyone’s here?” Sunny said.
She had been forced to move spaces while the voice announced her failure. There were familiar people in the new space. They were Yuri, Dwayne, and Lee Hoon. Everyone was gathered here except for Mason.
“Sunny is here too. Then all of us failed?” Lee Hoon murmured without any strength. He had failed on the verge of success. This made it even more disappointing and frustrating.
“Heder, did you fail? Yuri as well? Everybody?” Sunny asked.
Yuri and Dwayne nodded. It was a failure. Yuri had given up almost halfway through, while Dwayne had given up a little earlier than that. However, both had definitely still done better than Sunny. She hadn’t even gotten a proper start and merely injected her magic power like a gas pump at a gas station.
“Has everyone finished? As expected, my disciple is good. That person was just a monster,” a familiar voice rang out.
It was the same voice they heard during stage 3. The four people turned their heads and looked at the source of the voice. It was an old man with white hair and a white beard. Suped greeted them, “It is nice to meet you. I am a great-magician of the Yusma Empire, Suped. I am also Mason’s master.”
The moment Suped appeared, Dwayne asked something he was curious about—something that had harassed him terribly in the stage 3 mission: “Who is the monster? Why did you keep comparing me to it and saying you were glad?”
“That’s right. Who is the monster you’re talking about?” Sunny added.
She was curious as well. Who was the monster? Yuri and Lee Hoon didn’t bother asking. They already guessed who it was.
The only person who could be called a monster was Hyeonu.
“A monster is a monster. The one who gave you the return scroll to come here—that person is truly a monster. He broke through this place with a single challenge. Look.” Suped flicked his finger, and a video started to play on one wall.
A blond magician was fighting against a human covered in white fur.
“My apprentice, Mason, is now challenging Laek’s stage 8. He is using Blink to cleverly lead the battle. Maybe he’ll reach stage 9 today,” Suped said. Contrary to his original intentions, Suped started bragging about Mason, but he soon calmed down and expressed what he intended to say: “Mason’s accomplishment was by no means achieved quickly. In addition to this challenge, he has challenged it close to 50 times. It is only after challenging it 50 times that he can go beyond stage 8. It wouldn’t have been possible without Blink. Yet that person passed it in one challenge.”
The faces of the four people were astonished by Suped’s words. 50 times—that was half of 100. It would never have been easy. Constantly challenging and facing continued failures—they knew how much patience it needed.
“Ah, he passed. Well done, Mason,” Suped stated.
Just then, the lycanthrope fell to Mason’s magic. Suped was as delighted as a child, but this didn’t last long. Surprise and regret took the place of his joy.
“Why is that monster there...?” A sigh emerged from Suped’s mouth.
“Isn’t it Alley Leader?”
“It’s Mister Gang.”
“What is the mission? Why is Oppa there?”
Several people spoke at once. They were all words referring to Hyeonu.
“Stage 9 is to fight your acquaintance. It can also be a loved one. Friends, family, and even your master can come out. But he...”
A man wearing a child’s mask and holding a long sword against his shoulder—anyone would recognize him as Hyeonu.
“Don’t hesitate to use magic. That way, there is a glimmer of hope, Disciple...” Suped continued to speak pathetically.
His eyes were filled with tears like he was watching a sad movie. It was as if he was looking at his disciple’s sad fate.
“Mason used magic. It is a magic I often see while we’re hunting. It is very powerful magic,” Lee Hoon murmured.
Mason was aiming his staff at Hyeonu. Then a red tornado was fired from the staff.
“Oppa is just watching? Why isn’t he attacking?” Yuri commented.
Despite the incoming attack, Hyeonu didn’t move. There wasn’t the slightest movement from the sword on his shoulder.
“There is no way Alley Leader would just look,” Lee Hoon said.
He was right. Just before the fire tornado engulfed Hyeonu, he moved. A dark light emerged from the sword and cut through the tornado. The tornado split in two and hit both the ceiling and the ground. Yet the sword didn’t stop there. It was like a greedy black hole. Eventually, Mason was eaten up by the sword.
The video ended with this. The Mason missing from the video appeared in the space where Suped and the party were located.
“Oh, Brother is truly strong. I guess Stage 9 can’t be cleared?” Mason was casual about it.
He wasn’t frustrated. It was a solid mindset brought about by 50 defeats.
“He is just a monster. It isn’t that you are lacking, Disciple. There is still a lot for you to learn and a long way for you to go. You can win.”
“Thank you for your words, Master.”
After comforting Mason, Suped turned and spoke to the four people staring into the air: “Did you see it? This is the greatness of the monster. Be thankful for being with the monster. Be thankful that you are his companions. Once again, be thankful. There is nothing scarier than when he is an enemy.”
The four players were thrilled and empathetic at the same time.
‘Monster’ was a word that matched well with Alley Leader. They were grateful that they were his teammates and could go to the professional league with him. Simultaneously, they made a promise that they weren’t going to hold him back.
“Suped, please let me challenge it again. There is no time.”
“Me as well.”
At this moment, a training frenzy struck Suped’s laboratory.