20 Time to prove yourself 3

The second task is a fighting test. It will test your potential… The normal task, at the highest difficulty level, consists in facing a Shadow 5 times stronger than yourself, said Kirin. But you will have to fight against someone with Physical Strength 50 times higher than yours. They will have your same amount of Mana and access to the same Skills you possess… What are you doing?

Skill Activated:

Communion with Mana

Lv: 1

You are able to flow the power of Mana through the most suitable Meridians.

You can move while storing and regenerating your Mana.

Exp: 6.2%


MP Regeneration: 200 Mana/Sec

Skill Amplification: 3%

Physical Abilities Amplification: 1,3%

As soon as he was told to fight against such a powerful Shadow, Helial started condensing Mana on the fingertips of his left hand. Curse of the Demon was not going to be useful to him now, so he left it on the ground. "I'm getting ready. Is it against the rules? We're talking about a Shadow 50 times stronger than me, I don't see anything wrong with a little head start. What about life… Will he have my same amount of HP?"

Yes. He will have your same MP and HP, plus he will be able to think independently. Only Physical Strength will be different… Kid, no one can face someone this much stronger. This is a task not even a genius can pass. In this world, some things are really impossible.

Skill Activated:


Helial could feel the taste of blood in his mouth. He adjusted the range of Perception to 500 yards. He could not afford to lose.

Kid… That scene almost moved Kirin to pity. He did not understand what Helial was hoping to do with Mana Pistol. No matter its power, the Qilin was sure that nothing would have been enough to kill someone with the boy's physical abilities amplified by 50.

But Kirin now noticed something was different about that Skill. The brat hasn't reached the First Phase yet, but has already learned Mana Pistol… And I feel he's condensing the Mana bullet to the maximum degree… How can it be possible? He has a Black Seed, his control can't be… Unless he has experienced a specific problem during Condensation. Maybe he is a genius who was unlucky enough to be disturbed during the Condensation of the Seed.

Kirin's hypothesis could have explained why Helial had passed the first task so smoothly. Although, no matter how good he was at controlling Mana, his Shadow would have killed him as easily as swatting a fly.

There was no hope for Helial. Quantifying the strength of people at different Phases was not easy, but if Helial was still at the beginning, not having reached the First Phase yet, then his Shadow would have been at least in the First Phase Intermediate stage.

Phases started at level 60, when someone could be considered to have stepped on the path to Immortality. Before level 60, one was not worth to even pronounce the word 'Mana'. Once at that level, the body went through a great metamorphosis and the Meridians became extremely powerful. The difference between being below level 60 and having entered the First Phase was as big as the distance between heaven and earth.

Every Phase had 60 levels and could be divided into three further grades: Early, Intermediate and Late stages. The difference among these grades was not as big as that between Phases, but the body still went through some lesser changes. Meridians went through an adjusting process, to ease the passage to the next Phase.

How could Helial face someone in the First Phase Intermediate stage?

Helial's breathing had become short and wheezy.

Kid, are you ready?, asked Kirin, almost moved to pity.

It was going to be all over in less than a minute. The Shadow was going to kill him at the first blow. The real goal of that task was force the contestant to evolve. Being face with someone infinitely more powerful, they had to go beyond their limits, becoming stronger during the task itself. It could be by a sudden level up of a Skill or the creation of a new one, maybe a breakthrough or who knows what else. Whoever could manage that would have greatly benefited from the experience. It was not easy achieving a breakthrough under normal conditions, let alone during a fight to the death.

Helial, however, would have been denied this possibility. His Shadow was just too strong. Kirin had added the difficulty of all the other six tasks, so the difficulty level was going to be through the roof… Not even the most talented of men could have passed such a test.

Kirin sighed, or rather he would have sighed if he had had a real body.


There was a sudden growl. Less than 30 yards from Helial, a Mana shape suddenly materialized, a Mana vortex that converged in one point. That Mana was truly brutal.

Helial had almost reached the tenth level of Perception and could perceived the Mana density very clearly. It emanated the same energy of a living being. That Qilin has many tricks up his sleeve…

The Mana became denser and denser, taking the shape of a boy. It was Helial! The Shadow looked exactly like Helial, but in place of the features on his face there was only a translucent blur. It was almost an ethereal creature. In his sockets were lodged two white semi-transparent spheres. His stare was cold, like a beast kept in captivity.

The Shadow emanated his Soul. It was identical to Helial's, since it had the same Mana.

A copy of Curse of the Demon appeared in the hand of the Shadow. The latter smiled with satisfaction, staring at the weapon with which he would soon use to kill his real self.

He had all the Skills Helial possessed and his same fighting style. The only thing the Shadow could not access was his personality. It was impossible to recreate a personality in a Shadow.

Let the task begin.


A couple of years earlier, in the Headquarters of the Mana Congregation

"Master, I don't understand. Why one can only use strength to fight? Is it forbidden to use tricks?" Asked a confused Helial.

"Boy, you can't drag in the mud the name of a Congregation, Guild or Clan while fighting. Only mercenaries and bandits use silly tricks to save themselves. And that's wrong!" flared up Vidio, who always cared more about his honor as a warrior than as a man. "A victory is not a real victory unless you haven't trampled your enemy and your strength ha-"


"How dare you!?" Vidio's face darkened in anger.

"So, according to you, when you are faced with someone too strong, the only thing left to do is run or die. To me it sounds like nonsense. Following this logic, running away from someone too strong for you would be a good solution, and so would be letting that person kill you. It's ludicrous. It would be like wanting to banging your head to take down a wall, instead of just picking up a tool. I have no intentions of renouncing to win against someone stronger than me just out of principle!"

"You will lose all credibility. They'll say that without those tricks you would have los-"

"Exactly! But what if I'd always win? What would a small trick matter, a little cheat? Having a trick up your sleeve, like poison or some weird substance, could save your life. It makes no sense to die doing what is right just for fear of doing something 'wrong'!"

Helial went on: "Let's say that I'm facing a weakened opponent who is two Phases higher than me. Why shouldn't I kill him, knowing that once healed he will kill me?"

"Kid, you can't always reason like that. Sometimes that could work, but not always. And you must think about the reputations of who is backing you u-"

"So, are you saying that if there was no one to back me up I could act as I pleased, without having to worry about whose reputation I am ruining?"

"Stop interrupting me while I'm talking, kid! Yes, it would be just like that."

"Master, I think giving up victory because the enemy is too strong is a way more cowardly thing to do rather than fight back in every possible way."

"Listen, boy. Using tricks and killing an enemy while he's down is not unheard of. But, if who's behind those enemies found out, then they would hunt you down to the end of the world. They'll call you a coward and a criminal. That's why people do not normally pull stunts like those, to avoid giving others an excuse to target them… You'll understand when you're older. Now you're too young still."

How can using tricks be wrong? Dying is wrong! People are just afraid to get their hands dirty… but I'm not. I won't let anyone hurt me or the people I love. I won't be restrained by some stupid formalities. And if this will prevent me from getting into a Clan or a Guild? Fuck them! I don't want to join them, I'll go on by myself and I have Lumia. Or I could found my own Guild one day, a Guild of people that share my views, who do not want to be constrained by pointless rules. People that want to live free. A Guild of freedom, without rules, a place for people that want to live light-hearted. A Guild for outcasts, for people who do not want to fit inside their stupid box.

Scared of strong powers? Scared of not being good enough? Scared of death?

I am scared of losing myself. I'm scared of not knowing right from wrong anymore, confused by the rules imposed on us by fear and weakness. I'll become strong, the strongest of all. I won't let anyone tie me down. I won't let fear clip my wings.

And when I say I'll be the strongest, I mean that I will never lose. I won't take shit from anyone. I chose to be free and I'll pay the price of it with my own blood.

Helial has suddenly stopped asking questions. Vidio turned towards him and noticed that the boy had an unusually serious look on his face. He was sure the kid was thinking about something that went beyond his comprehension as Master of the Mana Congregation.

"Enough with the long face. Let's go on."

Helial nodded, but the shadow did not disappear from his eyes.


In the present

Helial took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes. He could see the Shadow approaching fast. The hand that was gripping the Longsword of Mana was held behind the body, ready to strike a lethal blow.

The corners of Helial's mouth curled upwards.

Your body is damaged by excessive mental strain.

You lost 400 HP!

There was blood on his lips now, but not even the scarlet liquid could wipe the smile on Helial' face. His cheeks were streaked with blood that, mixed to tears, ran down from his blue eyes.

Helial was crying.

He's… crying? But why? He knew what he was facing. Is he hoping to move me? He wouldn't be the first genius I watch dying, and he won't be the last one. I'm sorry kid, you were blind. Did you really think you were that strong? You're just a toad at the bottom of a well, whispered Kirin to no one in particular.

The Skill Mana Pistol has been amplified by 500%.

Helial felt the Meridians in his arm were about to rip. He had to hurry up. He had pushed the density of Mana in his fingertips to the limit. It was going to generate a bullet with devastating powers, but it also threatened to make permanent damages to his Meridians.

Boy, that won't be enough. If you could shoot him right in the face maybe you'd have a chance, but your shot won't be fast enough. You can just hope to injure him. Your Shadow is too quick, you'll never be able to hit him… Wait a second!

Kirin noticed something hidden in Helial's right hand. Something was shining in his palm.

A smile spread on Helial's face.

I am free and no one will stop me.
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