Chapter 184 - Shadow Dojo (9)

Rebecca felt strange as she looked at Yeon-woo. ‘Is it possible for a child like this to exist? How did I not know about this until now?’ Rebecca thought of the first time she’d met Yeon-woo on the twentieth floor. Back then, she hadn’t been too interested in him, believing that he was just another Sadhu hopeful, the kind that she saw every year. She was too busy training and didn’t have time to think about other things. 

However, the god Cernunnos had ordered her: “Keep an eye on that child.” Like most gods, Cernunnos didn’t really communicate very much, and his command surprised her. She’d asked why but received no reply, and from then on, she’d begun to observe Yeon-woo.

Still, she couldn’t see anything special about him. She ended up slacking off with Cernunnos’ order and almost forgot about it. It was only when she’d been resurrected into a spirit that she began to understand why Cernunnos had told her to keep an eye on Yeon-woo.

‘He continues to get stronger as he fights. Each time he passes through a section—how is this possible? Is he only rethinking what he’s already learned or is he learning something new each time?’ Rebecca could see the changes in Yeon-woo each time he cleared a section.

The shadows in the final sections were extremely strong, but even when Yeon-woo appeared to start off at a disadvantage, he always won at the end. She was especially shocked when he defeated Heaven Wing Cha Jeong-woo and the Devil Army’s Head Bishop. 

Perhaps—just perhaps—Cernnunos hadn’t completely retrieved his holy power so that he could continue observing Yeon-woo. She was curious to see how far Yeon-woo would go, but now, since the new shadow was that of the Martial King, she was a bit worried.  

The Martial King was considered the greatest warrior in the history of the One-horned tribe. Even the Summer Queen of Red Dragon avoided him, and he was someone that was expected to eventually fight Allforone. Wouldn’t someone like that be too hard, even for Yeon-woo? And yet, the Martial King’s simulation had surrendered.

Rebecca’s eyes widened. She’d never heard or seen anything like this, and she’d never expected to see from a shadow, especially the Martial King’s.

***

What’s going on?

 The shadow is expressing his will?

Like Rebecca, Shanon and Hanryeong were completely taken aback. They had also passed the twenty-first floor before, and so they knew that a simulation was just a bunch of data. It didn’t have a personality or free will, and so the actions of the Martial King’s shadow were impossible. The trial had already begun, but he kept his arms raised in the air.  

Hey, Master! Are you sure your teacher didn’t sneak in here and pretend to be his younger self?

Shanon knew that he was speaking nonsense. There was no way an outsider could enter an arena, and even the Guardians weren’t allowed to come in. However, it seemed more likely that the Martial King would sneak in than the simulation would have its own mind.

‘No. It’s not completely impossible.’ Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes and looked at the shadow of the Martial King. It was hard for him to believe that the simulation would have free will, but he didn’t completely reject the possibility like Shanon and Hanryeong. After all, didn’t he go through something similar already with his brother’s shadow?

Right before he faded away, he’d said something to Yeon-woo, and at the time, Yeon-woo had just assumed that a memory had activated in the data. ‘But what if that’s not the case?’ If his brother’s shadow had managed to have its own will for a moment, why wouldn’t the Martial King’s shadow have it, as well? After all, the Martial King’s shadow was even more powerful than his brother’s.

Of course, it was just a theory, and it was entirely possible that the Martial King’s shadow only attacked people it considered enemies. Whatever the reason, the shadow was different from all the other ones. 

The Martial King could clearly sense Yeon-woo’s interest, and his smile grew bigger as he put his arms down slowly. Then his mouth began to move once more although it didn’t make any sound. ‘I know that I can’t win even if I fight you. So let’s talk for a moment.’

That thing really talks? Whoa! This is confusing.

Master, you have to be careful. This has never happened before, and it might be a trap.

Yeon-woo didn’t let his guard down. If it were any other situation, he would have pulled Vigrid out without any hesitation. He hated things that were unpredictable and uncertain, and he would have made a move before the shadow could try anything. The shadow in front of him was the Martial King, who could easily push his brother away.

It was likely that he was just pulling a trick on Yeon-woo but Yeon-woo grew thoughtful. ‘I want to see if they’re more than just a bunch of data…maybe even their consciousness has been copied.’

If the shadows really did have their own identities, then he could meet his brother again. He could repeat the twenty-first floor over and over and speak with his brother. All he had to do was awaken the consciousness of the shadow, then somehow find a way to bring the shadow out…

“What do you want to talk about?”

‘The outside.’

“The outside?”

‘Yeah. I don’t know anything about the outside because I’m stuck here. I only have the memories of my original self. Tell me about the outside, and I’ll send you directly to the next section. What do you think? That’s not a bad offer, is it?’ The shadow’s smile was mischievous but would also make anyone feel nervous.  

After some thought, Yeon-woo said, “Why don’t we do a question and answer?”

‘What do you mean?’

“We can take turns asking each other questions. I also want to ask you something.”

‘Fine, whatever you want.’ The simulation smiled and put his hand down.

“Shanon. Hanryeong.” Suddenly, Yeon-woo’s shadow was split into two. Shanon and Hanryeong suddenly appeared next to the simulation, whose face hardened as though he were wondering what was going on.

However, Yeon-woo asked as though it were the most obvious thing: “Why should I trust you?” 

The Martial King that Yeon-woo knew was someone who couldn’t be read easily, and so Yeon-woo planned on holding the simulation down while asking questions.  

“Shit. I thought I got a pushover.” The simulation muttered, sounding exactly like the Martial King. It turned out that the simulations could speak, after all. “Since we’ve ended up like this, I guess I can’t do anything about it.”

And so it began. Boom! There was a powerful magic explosion around the simulation, and Shanon and Hanryeong flew back without even a chance to react. The shadow soared into the sky, but Rebecca, who had been hiding behind Yeon-woo, darted towards him as Shanon and Hanryeong quickly regained their balance. 

Heh! Finally! We can…

Move around as well!

They were laughing even though they had just been blasted by an explosion. They had been a little upset that they could only watch as Yeon-woo rushed through the sections. Shanon hadn’t had a good fight since his battle with Leonte and Bahal, and with his new sword from Henova, he was chomping at the bit to use it. A weapon was only valuable if it could be used in battle.

The gates that Yeon-woo had passed were all fun and games to him, and Yeon-woo had done everything on his own on the twenty-first floor so far, but this time, things were different. At first, Yeon-woo had thought of defeating the Martial King’s simulation on his own, but he ended up changing his mind.

“Bind the simulation,” he’d ordered. It didn’t seem easy to Shanon and Hanryeong but they were sure it would be fun. The two got ready to kick off from the ground as Rebecca chased after the simulation. Yeon-woo prepared to raise his Guai from the shadows. He wanted to capture the Martial King’s simulation through any means necessary. He might have a way to help Yeon-woo get his brother back for real, and he had to try everything. 

Yeon-woo’s eyes were filled with urgency, but Shanon and Hanryeong weren’t able to move. Just as Rebecca was about to attack the simulation, he clenched his fist then spread his hand open. The magic power that had condensed in his hand broke apart and began to pour onto the ground like a meteor shower.

It was beautiful, but its effects weren’t. Everything it touched exploded, and the ground quaked with another explosion that left nothing behind.

The Guai were swept away, and Boo’s fog scattered. Rebecca crumbled into pieces, and Shanon and Hanryeong were forced to the outer limits of the stage before their bodies returned to the shadows.

Fortunately, Yeon-woo had managed to protect himself with Fire Wings. Was that Wave of Light? It looked so similar. However, unlike the uncontrollable Wave of Light, the simulation managed to control it naturally. He’d swept all the Guai, Shanon, and Hanryeong aside in one blow. Jeong-woo had been a monster, but the Martial King was even worse. It was unbelievable.

‘The Martial King should have been in the process of making the Eight Extreme Fists during this time. What happened?’ Yeon-woo returned the Guai back into the shadows and pulled Vigrid out to see what the simulation knew about the Eight Writings of Divination.

He suddenly remembered what the Martial King had said to him: “Are you confident?” Then afterwards, he’d said, “Win. Take first place.”

Back then, Yeon-woo hadn’t given it much thought, but now he realized how much envy those words contained. Since the Martial King was in second place, that meant he hadn’t been able to defeat Allforone. Was that a regret of his? Perhaps that was the reason his simulation had gained sentience and completed the Eight Extreme Fists in a different direction from the real Martial King.

As the dust settled, the simulation’s lips twisted. He said, “That looked just like the Eight Extreme Fists. Are you connected to my true body? That’s amusing. I suddenly want to ask you more questions.” The shadow laughed just like the Martial King and stretched to warm up his body. Crack. He seemed just like a beast, and Yeon-woo thought that the Martial King definitely had more talent than Jeong-woo.

He was so focused that even his simulation behaved like a ghost filled with regret. However, Yeon-woo also noticed something else. ‘He sees me as prey, huh?’

He seemed to think of Yeon-woo as a way to make himself stronger, as though he were a predator looking over prey. Yeon-woo finally understood why Phante found his father so frustrating. Even he was feeling a little annoyed.  

Yeon-woo spread his Fire Wings. Just as he had promised the Martial King, he was going to beat the simulation up.

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