‘I’ve still got a long way to go.’ Yeon-woo mumbled to himself as he looked at the clump of dirt in his hand. He managed to preserve its shape, but he wasn’t satisfied because he still couldn’t use his Consciousness to control his strength. ‘But…at least my Consciousness accompanies me naturally now.’ Yeon-woo grinned, feeling proud and disappointed at the same time.
As he moved his body after his grueling training, he could definitely feel the difference. It was especially noticeable whenever he jumped into the air. His Consciousness automatically created many different changes, and it was evident that his body had fundamentally changed.
Yeon-woo’s muscles had been hard as rocks because he had done so much physical training before. But now, they’d also grown smoother and more flexible, like rubber. The Philosopher’s Stone and the Magic Circuit were now providing him with more magic power, his Extrasensory Perception was clearer than normal, and he could even feel the pulse of every cell and muscle.
However, Yeon-woo needed to train more. Even though he had succeeded in internalizing his Consciousness, he hadn’t completely synchronized it with his body, yet. He needed to control Consciousness as naturally as he used Aura.
“Looks like you got the basics down now.” Galliard landed next to Yeon-woo with a satisfied smile.
Yeon-woo laughed in disbelief. The system was telling him that the proficiency of his skill was at eighty percent but Galliard had just told him that he’d finally taken a few baby steps. It meant he still had a lot to learn.
“Since you have an idea of how to walk now, let’s learn to run.”
Yeon-woo remembered the different movements Galliard had used when he attacked the Elohim on the twenty-third floor. They were all different applications of Shunpo. His enemies hadn’t been able to fight back, as though Galliard were a ghost.
Yeon-woo hadn’t seen much of Galliard’s movements then, but he knew now that Galliard had amplified his Consciousness then. Yeon-woo’s eyes flashed. This was the real beginning of using Consciousness. If this was just the “walking” part of Consciousness, how incredible would “flying” be? “What should I do?” Yeon-woo asked eagerly.
“Simple. It all depends on how well you understand the basics, hm?” Galliard raised a corner of his mouth. “Actually, it’s best to just try it.”
Bang! Galliard attempted to stab Yeon-woo with the branch in his hand. He had gathered so much Consciousness in it that the air audibly popped as it condensed and exploded. Yeon-woo instinctively moved back, and the branch just missed his temple. He twisted his body and pulled out his Magic Bayonet.
Boom! The branch and the Magic Bayonet crossed with an explosion. The two shadows retreated and met in the air again. Boom!
* * *
Phante was deep in thought. “I want you to become my wings.” He’d felt happy hearing that from Yeon-woo. “Become strong enough.” Then he felt as though someone had pressed down on his chest. “Become strong enough that we can’t be crushed, regardless of whoever tries to push us down.”
Phante cursed. “Damn it.” He wasn’t cursing Yeon-woo but himself. When he heard this from Yeon-woo, Phante had been confident enough to say that he would be Yeon-woo’s teeth, not his wings. However, that was all bluster because his mind was in a jumble at the time.
He could feel the gap between Yeon-woo and himself becoming greater as time went on, so he was worried that he might fall behind completely. He continued to train his Mugong, but he didn’t get far, and the fear of being too weak and not good enough dogged him. He didn’t know why he couldn’t focus and what was making him suffer so much.
When he saw Yeon-woo leapfrogging around, Phante didn’t say anything. He realized what the emotion that was making him suffer all this time was: ‘Inferiority.’
To Phante, Yeon-woo was a role model. At first, he’d considered him a rival and followed him around to fight him, but Phante began to see more in Yeon-woo and wanted to learn from him. He’d used his envy of Yeon-woo as a way to motivate himself, believing that he would catch up one day.
But now, Phante felt a mingled sense of inferiority and respect towards Yeon-woo. ‘Why can’t I even get close to his level?’ Why could that guy do it, but he couldn’t? He also worked hard. But why? Ever since he was young, Phante was only satisfied when he was in charge. When he played war games with his friends, he always had to be the commander, and he always had to be better than anyone else during group training. It was unthinkable that anyone would be ahead of him.
Phante had only desired one thing when he was younger: the throne. He believed that he couldn’t fall behind anyone if he wanted to become king. He enjoyed the envy of others and scoffed when he was accused of being arrogant. He had never thought he’d look at someone in the same way, then he met Yeon-woo.
During their fight, Phante felt his world crashing down on him. He made a mistake thinking that he was the center of the world. In fact, there were countless people ahead of him. Still, he worked hard to catch up, and he found himself observing Yeon-woo with respect.
He placed Yeon-woo in a position that he never would have done when he was younger. But he never managed to catch up to Yeon-woo, and the gap between them seemed to only widen. As time went on, Phante began to grow resigned to the situation. He would sigh and say, ‘Whew, there he goes again.’ He grew accustomed to thinking that he’d never catch up. At some point, he’d given up. That was clearly where things had gone wrong.
Yeon-woo was someone that Phante respected, and he was proud of Yeon-woo for walking such a difficult path. But he shouldn’t have given up on it. ‘This isn’t it.’ Something lifted Phante’s head: his desire to win. This was the desire he’d discarded after growing resigned to being in second place.
Phante ground his teeth. He pressed the sense of inferiority down, and the passion to win flared up. He wanted to defeat Yeon-woo.
“Oppa. I’m going to climb the Tower.” Edora, who had been silently watching Yeon-woo next to Phante, suddenly spoke up. Phante snapped out of his thoughts and turned to his little sister. What was Edora thinking as she looked at Yeon-woo? It was clear that she, too, had a change of heart.
The expression in her eyes, which had Insight open, was profound. For a moment, Phante thought he was looking at his mother, the Psychic Medium. One thing he knew for sure was that they didn’t have the same reasons. Phante wanted to win, and Edora’s newfound goal was probably from love.
However, Phante didn’t pry. Just had he had his private thoughts, he left her space for hers. All he could do was silently cheer her on as her brother. He nodded and Edora turned around, saying, “Thanks.”
The Divine Magic Sword in Edora’s arm cried out and heat emanated from it. For some time after Edora left, Phante silently watched Yeon-woo and Galliard. Then, he turned away and headed somewhere.
* * *
The Head Elder pushed up his glasses and frowned. “What?”
“Please give your Blood Lightning to me.” Phante spoke confidently, as though he’d come back to retrieve something at a pawnshop.
The Head Elder started in surprise and put down the book he was reading. He thought he would have a chance to rest now because the Martial King was being quiet, but now it seemed like it was his son’s turn to talk nonsense. He wanted to slap the face that looked so much like the Martial King’s, but he controlled himself and asked Phante a question with his eyes narrowed. “Are you saying that you know what Blood Lightning is?”
“I do.” Phante nodded. Blood Lightning represented the Blood-Red Philosopher. It was a martial weapon that came from the Divination of the Cheongram family, the Lightning Control. Phante’s competitive feelings towards Yeon-woo had turned into a desire to become stronger, and this was the first step he could think of.
However, the Head Elder snorted like there was no way he would give it away. “No, you don’t know.”
“No, I do know.”
“No, you don’t know.”
Phante was about to say something again but he closed his mouth. The Head Elder smiled as he looked at Phante with a mocking gleam in his eyes. “Should I tell you the truth?”
Phante’s eyes widened. His back stiffened and he clenched his fists.
The Head Elder continued to mock him. “Don’t think of denying it. I’m right, aren’t I? Your brothers…yes, most of them are weaker than you, but a few are stronger than you. Don’t forget that your mother and sister are playing a large part in your candidacy for the throne.”
Phante couldn’t speak.
“Even though you’re famous for being one of the Cheongram siblings, there are a lot of monsters in the world. The village itself is full of warriors stronger than you, and there are many others in the Tower.”
Phante clenched his teeth. However, the Head Elder didn’t stop there. “And one more thing. You’re not even smart.”
Phante’s reddened eyes trembled. People often said that he was simple and aggressive, which was a nicer way of saying that he was dumb and didn’t think things through. The Head Elder kept his head down and worked hard in his office, but there wasn’t anyone as arrogant as him. Even the Martial King had to bend to him because the Head Elder had the right to behave this way.
“I’m strong. I’m smart. When he was alive, the Black Dawn of the Devil Amy couldn’t say anything to me. Who do you think cleaned up this archive? Who helped your father get to where he is now?” The Head Elder wasn’t emanating any particular aura, but Phante felt like he was being stepped on and someone was gripping his heart. It was getting harder to breathe. His heart almost jumped out of his chest and his clothes were soaked with sweat.
Although the Blood-Red Philosopher’s fame was overshadowed by the Martial King’s, he was still a pillar of the tribe. He had also proved that he still had his abilities recently, and even Waltz had to bend to him.
Phante grit his teeth and spat out, “You, sir.”
“That’s right.” The Head Elder nodded arrogantly and continued. “And Blood Lightning represents me. It’s something I earned after fighting my entire life, falling, thinking, learning, losing, then fighting again, trying, and enduring. Blood Lightning is me.” The Head Elder began to frown. “And now?” A bestial rage shook the atmosphere, although Phante couldn’t say for sure whether it was the atmosphere shaking or him.
“A guy who’s neither strong or smart wants something of mine? Go back.” It was a strict order and a warning not to covet something that didn’t belong to him when he didn’t deserve it.
Phaten’s shoulders trembled. He felt like he was falling off a cliff, the same feeling he’d had when he first met Yeon-woo. His world was crumbling again, and the last of his pride was completely destroyed. He glared at the Head Elder. Normally, he would’ve thrown a tantrum and kicked the door to leave, but instead, he bowed his head. “Please give me a chance.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter