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Chapter 26: A Fair Fight (2)

After instructing the children to run away, I turned my attention back to the man in front of me.

Even upon a second glance, his overwhelming magical power is apparent. True to a dark mage, a sinister aura mixed with a malevolent vibe is palpable.

‘It won’t be as easy as I thought.’

However, giving up wasn’t an option.

I need to fight stronger opponents in the future. Avoiding real combat forever wasn’t possible.

I didn’t want to screw up due to a lack of experience when I inevitably had to fight. With such a good opportunity presenting itself, how could I let it slip away?

‘Besides, I really want to save the amulet for later.’

From the time I separated from Siel to find Lien up until now, Siel had been steadily gathering power to create the amulet. 

It’s practically an artificial artifact.

If I can avoid using it, that would be ideal.

Well, in the end, there’s only one conclusion.

I just need to defeat this guy somehow.

‘If we’re just comparing magical power, he definitely has the upper hand.’

He won’t be an easy opponent to deal with.

If my power was created from Miss Rubia’s tears of hard work, his was made from ‘real’ tears.

It would be strange if he wasn’t strong after all the lives he’s sacrificed. Considering that even this man, Asher, who was recognized as talentless in the previous work, ended up this strong.

But, there wasn’t a big problem. 

A fight isn’t decided by strength alone.

“I won’t ask twice. Who are you?”

The man questions, with an evil aura slowly rising around him, as if he’s directly aiming his murderous intent at me.

…Well, honestly, I’m not quite sure myself.

After all, once murderous intent reaches a certain level, it’s considered a psychic attack, so the immunity effect of the Emperor’s Might applies.

The man’s eyes grew more wary of me. It was clear what kind of misunderstanding he was having.

I instinctively knew it.

This moment was the optimal timing.

“How repulsive. To think you’re parading around in your master’s skin. Do you not have any sense of shame?”

I spoke with a weighted, solemn voice, taking a stance.

The act of deliberately provoking him.

It might seem meaningless at first glance… but it’s different.

This was the best solution when facing a mage.

Constructing a spell requires concentration. Therefore, it was crucial to disturb the composure of a skilled mage in battle.

“......”

The man’s expression was painted with horror, but perhaps due to his experience, he regained his composure shortly after. It seems that this alone wasn’t enough to shake his mental state.

But… it didn’t really matter.

It was to be expected.

There’s a reason why veterans are veterans.

Asher, the disciple of the Archmage, is a character from the previous story.

In other words, his face is one I’ve seen over the years while playing through multiple iterations.

I couldn’t skip the cutscene of him killing his master, which I’ve watched hundreds of times over.

I probably know Asher better than he knows himself.

It’s blatantly obvious how to provoke him to the point of an outburst.

So, I asked with a slight smile, “Do you even know that he was your father?”

It was time to hit him with the revelation of his birth.

****

Asher seemed on the verge of madness.

It was, perhaps, to be expected.

He had been operating a black market with care when suddenly, a terrorist attack occurred.

As he went to suppress it, all the terrorists mysteriously disappeared.

An utterly incomprehensible situation.

However, what truly drove Asher to the brink of insanity was something else.

‘Who on earth is this man…’

The man who suddenly invaded his warehouse.

He couldn’t fathom the existence of such a person.

Through the large opening, he had already figured out the man’s route of entry.

However, the security here couldn’t possibly be that lax. Naturally, all sorts of mechanisms were prepared to thwart intruders.

Curses potent enough to drive one to madness and stab themselves in the neck before even setting foot through the entrance.

Over eighty humans were sacrificed just to create those, so their effectiveness was guaranteed.

Yet, there he was, standing in this place as if unfazed. As if the curses he had painstakingly prepared meant nothing to him.

It was the same even now.

The power he received from a demon as a price for killing his master.

Despite emitting an amount of demonic energy that could knock anyone unconscious, not a single flicker of change crossed the man’s face.

This enigmatic man calmly approached Asher and revealed a secret that no one else knew.

The fact that he had killed his master and had been living in his guise.

As if it were nothing significant, utterly nonchalant.

‘How on earth?’

His expression crumbled in an instant.

Cracks formed in the mask he had been wearing for more than ten years.

Until now, no one had discovered that fact.

It was natural.

After all, this was something he had specially crafted from his master’s dissected body.

No detection magic could penetrate it.

His disguise and acting were flawless. That made it even more incomprehensible.

How did this man figure it out?

If there was one thing certain… it was that this man was not an opponent to be underestimated.

‘There’s no time to delay.’

Asher, trying not to alert the man to his presence, quietly started to construct a spell… or attempted to.

But at that moment, an unbearable statement reached his ears.

“Do you know that he was your father?”

His mind went blank for a moment.

It was clear that the man was spouting nonsense.

That much was obvious, but… he just couldn’t focus on his spell.

“…It’s been over 10 years. It seems you still didn’t know.”

The man said in a calm voice.

It had to be a lie, such words couldn’t be true.

However… for some reason, he couldn’t just ignore it.

“Haven’t you ever wondered? Why a figure like your master would go out of his way to find a wandering boy and take him as a disciple.”

“Stop talking nonsense!”

Asher shouted, forgetting even to pretend.

“The reason that assassination plan succeeded is simple.”

Yet, the man continued to speak in a calm voice, as if he had been there, recounting the events of that day so naturally.

The poison that had unexpectedly entered his body in a moment of vulnerability.

Unaware that it was his own son who had ingested it, he had poured all his energy into saving the son who had drunk the same wine.

Initially, he had sought Asher with the intention of sacrificing his own flesh and blood, but at some point, he had genuinely come to love him as a son.

“You should have realized when the demon so readily provided such a rare and deadly poison. Those creatures would do anything for a bit of amusement.”

“Do you really think I’d fall for such nonsense!”

Asher yelled.

He wouldn’t listen; it all had to be lies.

With eyes full of madness, he unleashed a barrage of spells.

But...

“As expected, all techniques copied from your master. You haven’t grown at all.”

None of the attacks reached the man. They were all reversed and dissipated before they could touch him.

The man walked towards him unscathed, with absolute calm.

He couldn’t comprehend it.

...How?

How was such foolishness possible?

To instantaneously reverse the curses aimed at him?

It couldn’t be possible. This was a secret of the master. Everyone who had seen it had been killed.

Then how did this man reverse the spell?

How could he know so well the construction of a curse he was supposedly seeing for the first time?

The man’s face slowly approached. The man with the wolf mask spoke in a calm voice.

“You are still as foolish as ever, my son.”

That statement.

The moment he heard those words.

There was no way he could maintain his sanity. Asher’s magic spiraled out of control.

And… the man didn’t miss that moment.

The man’s entire magical power concentrates to a single point. Under normal circumstances, any regular body would not withstand it and burst apart.

Yet, the man’s fist remained unharmed. An event beyond rational comprehension.

“Idiot, you fell for that?”

Along with those words, a dull pain spread through Asher’s abdomen.

His rationality was instantly paralyzed. The pain rendered his mind unable to function properly.

But even so.

“This damned bastard...”

Asher bit his tongue. A bitter taste of blood momentarily brought his consciousness back.

Asher’s face twisted in anger.

It was to be expected. 

The gap in skill between that man and himself was overwhelmingly vast.

He brushed off all attacks as if they were laughable. 

The reason he didn’t kill Asher instantly, despite having the power to do so, was simple.

To mock him. To toy with Asher as if he were a plaything.

That was something utterly unforgivable.

The outcome of the battle was clear.

The difference in power was overwhelming. No matter how much Asher fought, he could not win against this man.

But he could take him along as a companion in death.

‘You will die alongside me, whom you so disdainfully underestimated.’

Teleportation magic. 

In Asher’s hand, that ominous sword was now grasped.

A thing that, despite nine years of research, remained a mystery, and even demons refused to accept as a tribute. A decision was made to dispose of it, albeit reluctantly.

Its true purpose was discovered only today.

A disaster that continuously poured curses upon this world. A cursed sword that could drive anyone mad just by being nearby.

If one were to receive all its curses, even that man would not emerge unscathed. Asher was certain of it.

“This, you brought upon yourself.”

With a grin that nearly split his face, Asher completely unleashed its seal.

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