51 – To Run or to Fight – 3
“There they are!”
When Lee Hyun and his group walked a bit to exit the forest, the disciples of the Asura Sect revealed themselves.
Their appearance differed from the Asura Sect members they had faced so far.
Each one seemed to be a formidable opponent.
“Lord of Wind.”
Lee Hyun’s sword pointed, and a massive gust of wind enveloped the enemies.
Unable to withstand the wind, the Asura Sect disciples collapsed, and Lee Hyun, standing behind them, spoke to Lena.
“Do not fall behind, and chase them well. It might be challenging to deal with them in your current state.”
Having also mastered intermediate magic,
Rena, who thought that multiple spells and the Shadowless Spear might be helpful, cast a spell again towards the re-emerging foes.
Surprisingly, her magic had no effect on the Asura disciples.
The magic disappeared in the middle.
Startled by this, when Rena widened her eyes, Ihyeon swung his sword, knocking them down.
“The elite of the Asura sect have individuals with magic-nullifying artifacts. Those below intermediate magic are highly likely to be nullified, so conserve your magic power.”
“But, then, Master, you’re fighting alone!! I’ll, I’ll call for a Shield! So…”
“Over there! Over there!”
Once again, rough shouts were heard.
Startled by this, Rena hastily tried to summon a Shield.
But the Shield did not come.
More surprised, as Rena looked, Ihyeon overcame the approaching enemies.
“The Asura sect’s illusion is quite formidable. It won’t be easy to summon spirits in this entire forest with their barrier.”
Unable to summon spirits and with magic being ineffective, it meant she was just a burden.
As Rena’s complexion turned pale, Ihyeon smiled and patted her head.
“Don’t worry. I will definitely protect you.”
Like hunters aiming to catch a surrounded tiger, the Asura disciples continued to attack Ihyeon and Rena.
They were repelling them each time, but as time passed, Ihyeon’s injuries were gradually increasing, unavoidable in the face of relentless assaults.
Seeing his figure, Rena could only wear a profoundly melancholic expression.
She thought she had changed.
Thought she had gained power.
But she hadn’t.
She was still insufficient.
To stand by Ihyeon’s side.
“Huh… Huh… Huh…”
Having repelled countless attacks, Ihyeon, breathing heavily, could be seen.
As Ihyeon began to fall, Lena caught him.
“Are you okay?”
“Huu… Yeah. I’m fine.”
Damp blood touched his face.
Lena, with a worried expression, supported Ihyeon.
He couldn’t let him continue fighting in this condition.
“Th-there’s a cave over there! Let’s rest a bit there before we go on…!”
“Sure. Let’s do that.”
Supporting Ihyeon, Lena headed towards the cave.
It was a cave she had discovered while collecting herbs before.
Although small, it should be enough to hide for a short while.
Thinking so, they thankfully found no one inside the cave upon arrival.
Laying Ihyeon down inside, she treated his wounds with the medicine she had brought.
“Th-there are too many wounds…”
No deep wounds, but quite a few shallow ones.
Applying ointment to the burns and cuts all over, Lena shed tears.
“Just use healing magic… Save the herbs.”
“But, you’re using magic, too… your teacher also used a lot of magic…”
How many advanced spells had Ihyeon cast on the way here?
Not just that, using sword skills also consumed magic.
Lena could tell that Ihyeon, who had been fighting alone, might be running low on magic.
“Sorry… I’m so sorry… Huk…”
“Why are you sorry?”
“I, huk. It’s because of me… Huk… Master…”
“It’s not because of you.”
Ihyeon gently wiped away her tears, caressing her cheek.
Was it because of his touch?
Lena felt the flow of tears slowing down a bit.
“The evil ones are the Asura sect. You’re no longer an experiment or anything for the Dark Cult. You’re just Lena, my proud disciple. Attacking you is the mistake of the Asura sect, not something you’ve done wrong.”
Hyun immediately dismissed Lena’s thoughts.
However, it was undeniable that his words only intensified Lena’s tears.
Lena, now shedding teardrops like beads, nestled into Hyun’s embrace.
“But, but… Ugh! Aaargh! Master, the master is trying to protect me… Ugh…”
“What’s wrong with a master exerting strength to protect a disciple? I’m just doing what needs to be done,” Hyun said kindly, patting Lena’s small back.
Listening to those words, Lena couldn’t hide her embarrassment.
‘I’m such a fool…’
Master is putting in effort for my sake.
Master is exerting strength for my sake.
I should try harder.
I should exert more strength.
If only I had mastered advanced magic, the burden on Master would have been lighter.
Her self-blame began to intensify.
As if sensing it, Hyun comforted Lena while patting her.
“You’ve always done well. Mastering intermediate magic in just a year is quite impressive. So, don’t belittle yourself.”
“Ugh… Aaargh… Sniff… Hng…”
After the healing was complete and they left the cave, Hyun and Lena were attacked by ghostly beings and Asura cultists as they cautiously moved.
“Here they are!”
Arrows flew towards them.
Just as Hyun was about to use magic to block them—
Hyun’s arm was deeply cut, and blood spurted out.
As Lena, surprised by this, widened her eyes, Hyun glanced at his arm that had been sliced.
Circular blade. Chakram.
“Looks like the tough guy is here…”
Hyun briefly licked his lips and applied healing to his injured arm.
In the midst of Lena’s astonishment at Hyun’s changed appearance, a man clad in black emerged from the forest.
“Well, well. This is surprising. You were here, Hyun?”
“It’s been a long time, Lucciar.”
“Lucciar…? M-Master. D-Do you know him?”
“I do. He’s the bishop of the Asura sect, the embodiment of Asura’s wrath.”
Though exact details were unclear, the adversary belonged to a religious group.
If they held the position of a bishop within that religious sect, they were certainly not a weak opponent.
‘What should I do?’
Lucciar, with Chakram spinning menacingly as if ready to take Hyun’s life, contemplated.
And slowly emerging behind him were the Asura disciples in dark attire.
They were truly elite.
“When I give the signal, run.”
In Hyun’s composed voice, Lena turned pale.
He intended to sacrifice himself to allow Lena to escape.
“Facing them all alone would be impossible. Escape when I signal you.”
“You wouldn’t disobey your master’s command, would you?”
Smirking, Hyun patted Lena’s head before deftly grasping his sword.
Towards him, Lucciar swiftly hurled the spinning Chakram.
-Clang!! Clang! Clang!
“Haha!! You’re weak, Hyun! The sharpness from the old days is completely gone!!”
Even with his taunts, Hyun focused solely on protecting Lena.
Watching him, Lena clutched her face.
‘No! No! No! No! I can’t let Master go alone!’
This is because of me.
Because I am weak.
If I were strong enough, if I could stand by Master’s side because of my strength.
Then, such a thing would never have happened.
Suppressing the surging anxiety and self-doubt, Lena exerted her magic.
“Lord of Fire!”
However, what materialized was a simple fireball.
Naturally, Luciar and his subordinates nullified the fireball using a magic-nullifying artifact.
“This isn’t it.”
I need to be stronger. Just a bit more. A bit more.
Desperation called for focus, and focus heightened the precision of magic.
With closed eyes, Lena sensed every flow of magic.
She refined control over the existing flow, embraced the natural magic more forcefully.
“This isn’t it. This isn’t it. This isn’t it.”
A bit more. A bit more. A bit more.
I need to be stronger!
The immense magic of nature began to flow into her physical being.
Accepting it, she tempered the magical circuits throughout her body.
Advanced magic is different from intermediate and lower-level magic.
To harness its tremendous power, one must constantly absorb the magic of nature.
Lena opened her eyes, completing the last word.
At that moment, a massive fiery mass began to take shape from Lena’s staff.
The fireball, or rather the enormous flames, one, two, four, eight of them, kept expanding.
“What, what is that?! It’s—”
The rapidly increasing gigantic flames swept away all of Luciar’s subordinates in an instant.
Even the magic-nullifying artifact was useless against these flames.
“This, this is…”
Having witnessed his subordinates turning into ashes in an instant, Lucsiar was horrified, but he couldn’t do anything about it.
All of a sudden, Ihyeon, who had approached unnoticed, slit his throat.
Holding his bleeding neck, Lucsiar, with blood gushing out like a fountain, staggered and collapsed to the ground. Ihyeon, having not only completed an advanced magic but also unleashed multiple spells, grinned at Lena, who had fallen to the ground.
“It’s not easy to pretend to be weak.”
But for Ihyeon, it wasn’t a bad outcome.
[Occupational Quest – Sage]
[Take in two disciples and help them grow to a certain level or higher.]
Since the quest goal had been achieved.
With Lucsiar, the heart of the Celestial Maze, dead, the Celestial Maze could no longer fulfill its role properly.
Thanks to that, Ihyeon, breaking through those blocking their way, guided Lena out of the forest, patting her back as she gasped for breath.
“Not bad, huh?”
“Haa… Haa… Th-thank you…”
“I thought you’d quickly master advanced magic.”
While Lena delighted in Ihyeon’s praise, a realization struck her, and her face turned pale.
She remembered what she had ignored.
The moment she mastered advanced magic, Ihyeon would no longer be able to teach her.
And that meant he would leave her.