Everything began with a single question.
The folks at the NDF had become stronger.
Sure, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s endless torture and ‘education’ regime that was tailored to suit each individual did play a part, but there was no way that they would have gotten this strong with only those two factors at play.
No, what really separated the agents of the NDF from other ability users was the introduction of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s dark Mana.
Dark Mana – the magical power of darkness; the foundation which the demon world was built upon, and created with humanity’s negative energy as its basis.
The reason why he decided to inject dark Mana into his subjects was because he became rather curious if they would really get stronger after accepting the energy of the darkness.
This idea came about after considering several methods to quickly and efficiently strengthen them, and the results were far beyond Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expectations.
His dark Mana combined with the Ether present within the ability users brought about a noticeable synergistic effect.
He simply wanted to see if the dark Mana could indeed strengthen one’s constitution, but ended up gaining an unexpected harvest, instead. To Yi Ji-Hyuk, someone who had lost his former strength, this sure was an interesting development.
Thinking that, as long as he could utilise this finding properly, he’d be able to regain some of his former powers – maybe not everything, but just a portion – he began experimenting fusing magical energy with Ether.
The result of that was displayed during the fight against Beltreche.
The final attack almost managing to bring down that particular demon king was Yi Ji-Hyuk’s brand new weapon, created by fusing Ether and dark Mana. Its destructive power was well above his expectations, but unfortunately, it also almost destroyed his own body in the process.
In simple terms, it was a double-sided blade.
But it was at that moment he came up with yet another question.
It was possible to mix magical energy and Ether outside one’s body. In that case, didn’t that mean he could also fuse magic and Ether inside his body?
What would happen if Yi Ji-Hyuk fused magical energy and Ether inside his body, just like with everyone else?
“Kekeke.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The result was unknown. Even he couldn’t tell for sure. However, he didn’t dare try it.
He could ‘control’ other ability users so he injected just the right amount of dark Mana into their bodies – as much as they could deal with, in other words. However, it was a different story with Yi Ji-Hyuk.
The amount of Mana residing within his body couldn’t be compared to what was injected into theirs. Also, the amount of Ether in his body had increased exponentially since his return to Earth, too.
If he hadn’t gone to Berafe and became a wizard, then no doubt, he’d have ‘awakened’ as an ability user by now. That’s how much Ether had piled up within his body.
So, what might happen if those two powers fused into one?
‘….I’ll probably die.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He had no clue what might happen during the process, but the end result seemed to be a foregone conclusion. His body wouldn’t be able to endure it.
The agents of the NDF experienced their bodies crumbling accompanied by an incredible amount of pain after fusing with only a tiny amount of dark Mana.
In that case, wasn’t it pretty obvious what the result of Yi Ji-Hyuk fusing all of his Mana with his Ether would be like? Besides, it was also unknown what kind of an effect the process would have on his mind, too.
For instance, if it resulted in him going insane, then Earth would be destroyed by his own hands, instead.
That was why…
….He didn’t even dare to experiment until now. All he could do to was to theorise it in his head. Unfortunately, he couldn’t delay it any further.
He was left with only three options – one, him destroying Earth, two, Delkaran doing that for him, or three, them all perishing together….
“Who cares.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s contemplative glare landed on Delkaran next.
Right now, he was at his most cold-headed mental state. He might be driven to an untenable position of having to take a gamble of his lifetime as death barrelled down on him, but his mind was as calm as the still surface of a lake.
Mana oozing out from Yi Ji-Hyuk’s body swirled and danced around him.
There should be a way to fuse inside his body, but he hadn’t tried it yet. The best he could do under the circumstances was to extract Mana outside and then push it back in while blending it with his Ether, just like how it was done with other NDF agents.
“Fuu….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk sucked in a deep, but quiet breath.
‘I mean, all that can happen to me is dying, right??’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
All the Mana swirling around him suddenly got sucked back inside.
“Keuk!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Vessels bulged within his eyes. Mana coursed throughout his body and began fusing with Ether sleeping within his body. Thunderclaps resounded within his ears and sparks of flames seemed to go on a riot in his vision.
However, the pain itself wasn’t as great as he feared.
Was it because he already had a really high pain threshold?
Maybe, experiencing the extreme pain that a person could realistically go through earlier on must’ve helped him to deal with the new pain he was worried about.
No, what he couldn’t really deal with was….
“….Oiii, Seo Ah-Young.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Didn’t you tell me before that, once I inject you with dark Mana, you become really angry, hateful, get heated up and your desire to destroy boils over?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, that’s right.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Mm… Right. So, that’s what happened?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Is something wrong? Wait, you can’t control them??” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Mm, well, that’s not the issue, but….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t feel anything, actually.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…..Eh?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Not just Seo Ah-Young, but other agents began staring at Yi Ji-Hyuk with weird eyes.
“H-mm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Well, it’s not that surprising, if you think about it.
I’m already deeply stained by dark Mana, right?
You could just name it a ‘Chronic dark Mana addiction’ or some such. Anyways, there’s only one thing worth noting here. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
There could be one of the two reasons why he didn’t sense any changes in his mental state when dark Mana entered his body.
One, his brain was so strong that he could ably withstand such changes in his mind. Unfortunately, that was rather implausible, so…
‘….Nope, I’m just crazy.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
This meant that, either he had been always living with this chronic desire to destroy something, or had felt quite differently from everyone else.
“Yup, I’m really insane, aren’t I?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Whichever it was, both of them meant he was not normal. He always suspected that he was not of the right mind, but now that it was confirmed for good, he really felt hollow and dirty inside.
“Tsk.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shrugged his shoulders and glared at Delkaran.
“What a relief that I do have a nice lil’ target to vent my anger on. No, hang on a bit. Maybe, me feeling this dirty and stuff could be because of the rage bubbling on without a reason like these other people, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I don’t understand what rubbish you’re trying to spew out here.” (Delkaran)
Delkaran’s sharp eyes glared at Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“I’ve been as patient as I can.” (Delkaran)
“Correction. You weren’t being patient, but rather, you couldn’t make a move. Because, you didn’t know what I was going to do. Am I wrong?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Think whatever you want.” (Delkaran)
“Kekekeke.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The corners of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lips arched up.
So, then. How should he go about making mincemeat out of this little adorable demon king that the rumours of his feats would reach the ears in the truly far-flung lands?
No, well. He should totally rip that dude apart in a thousand little pieces as to prevent any ol’ demon kings from even entertaining ideas of crossing over to this world, no?
Yi Ji-Hyuk lightly shook his head left and right, and marched straight towards Delkaran.
‘He’s getting closer?’ (Delkaran)
The demon king was suddenly beset with this sense of confusion.
Yi Ji-Hyuk was a sorcerer.
A sorcerer was an existence that required a ‘safe’ distance. No matter how perfect one was as a sorcerer, one still needed to chant and/or make hand signs. Even if one was a sorcerer that had surpassed that level and reached the top of the pile, one would still need to spend some time to emit Mana, transform it, and fire it away.
The shorter the time was, the greater the sorcerer one would be.
The thing was, though, even if that time needed was really short, high-levelled opponents would always be able to use that gap to their advantage.
Yi Ji-Hyuk also knew this, and that was why he resorted to controlling a horde of monsters and nurtured the agents of the NDF to surround himself with, all for the sake of filling up the gap during casting his magic spells.
But then, he was willingly closing up the distance?
“What are you trying to do now?” (Delkaran)
Delkaran simply couldn’t understand it, but still chose to walk towards Yi Ji-Hyuk as well.
The two being’s distance closed up gradually.
At the same time, a heavy silence descended on the world.
Eventually, Yi Ji-Hyuk and Delkaran reached a distance where they could touch each other by simply extending one’s hand.
And finally, one more step was taken.
Delkaran and Yi Ji-Hyuk became so close that their faces could almost touch.
“Have you finally let go of your sanity?” (Delkaran)
Delkaran mocked its opponent, but Yi Ji-Hyuk simply formed a mocking grin of his own.
“Aren’t you a mage type, too?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m a demon. I’m not a human saddled with weak flesh like you.” (Delkaran)
“Oh, in that case, shouldn’t you be celebrating now? I made things so much more advantageous for you, haven’t I?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I truly cannot decipher what’s on your mind.” (Delkaran)
All the snake heads protruding from Delkaran’s body hissed, their forked tongues threateningly poking out. It was a rather grotesque scene resembling that of hundreds of worms wriggling about from a bluish body, but Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t give a rat’s a*s about it.
“Mm, not really sure how to explain it to you, but….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Their glares were now colliding violently as if to spark actual, physical flames.
“It’s like, I’m a physical-enhancement type ability user, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I thought it was a bit strange. My body was tougher than normal, you see? I’ve never given it too much thought until now. I mean, back then, my body regenerating to full was the most obvious thing in the world, so I had no idea what would happen if a normal person got struck by those attacks. But when I thought about it for a while, it became clear that….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned meaningfully.
“If I wasn’t a physical-enhancement type ability user, I’d have died several times over by now. That’s when I realised it. I’m a sorcerer that uses Mana, but at the same time, I’m a physical type ability user, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Delkaran didn’t know what being an ability user really meant, but the demon king still could more or less figure out what Yi Ji-Hyuk was trying to say. So, his body had been enhanced somehow?
“Is that what you are believing in?” (Delkaran)
“Mm, looks like you still haven’t fully digested it….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seo Ah-Young got to display the firepower over five times her norm with nothing but a minute amount of dark Mana. As for Park Sung-Chan, only a tiny bit of that dark magical energy allowed him to enjoy an amazing level of defence that made it possible to survive an all-out attack by a demon king.
In that case, what would happen if Yi Ji-Hyuk’s Ether was reinforced by magical energy?
“Well, that….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk cocked his head once and twisted his body.
“….It’ll be quicker to learn with your body!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
In that moment, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s right straight jab landed on the right side of Delkaran’s face. And then, accompanied by the sound of a bomb going off, the demon king’s body became a streak of asteroid as it flew away, before crashing into the ground with a loud crack.
Delkaran continued to slide away while creating a huge gouge in the ground of London before eventually forming a huge crater at the end of its sudden trip.
“HMM??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk watched that spectacle and flinched a little.
“Wowsers, that’s awesome.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
I never expected it to be this much, you know….. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Even if Delkaran wasn’t a physical-type close range demon king, who’d think that it flew away like a home run struck by Babe Ruth??
“Wow!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It felt like a knot in his heart came undone just now.
He became really strong after getting his hands on Mana, sure, but back in the early days of him wandering around in Berafe, he tried to learn countless martial techniques to get stronger somehow.
He wanted to become a knight, but couldn’t go past being a second-rate. He wanted to become one of those wandering hidden experts, but even on that journey, got stuck around being a second rate, too.
He then tried to become a ranger, but couldn’t even get to being a second-rate, and when he tried to become a bare-knuckle fighter, he never got past being a third-rate.
Because, he didn’t have any Mana.
Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t gather Mana through regular means. So, no matter how many martial techniques he learnt, he simply couldn’t use Mana to enhance them the way they were meant to be.
Later in his life, he became the possessor of dark Mana and naturally, tried to utilise those techniques, but too bad – the nature of dark Mana was too different from that of the regular Mana and couldn’t be applied to physical-type abilities.
But now – finally!!
After returning to this world and by being able to use Ether, Yi Ji-Hyuk was finally given the foothold to use all those techniques designed to enhance his physical capabilities.
‘Although, it’s kinda too bad that it has to be kept short.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
In a certain sense, here came his opportunity to vent out his frustration on one long-a*s resentment he’d been lugging around in his heart.
“Hey, you dead yet?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk cackled on and leisurely approached where Delkaran had crashed into.
And in that instant, hundreds of ‘snakes’ shot out from that crater in question and flew towards Yi Ji-Hyuk.
< 221. It’ll be quicker to learn with your body! -1 > Fin.