Inside an artificial cave created by cutting a part of a mountain, there was an elderly mage—who looked so old that it would not have looked out of ordinary if he collapsed suddenly—explaining something endlessly.
In front of the elderly mage, there was a young man—who looked so bored and unfocused with his expressionless face—listening to the mage’s explanation with one ear to letting it escape the other ear.
The 103 level magic swordsman Vulcan was going through a brutal physical training only moments ago, but now he was looking at the elderly mage with unfocused eyes.
“……and that’s how you can establish the fundamentals of using basic magic power. Other phony methods claiming to be better are not needed. This is the method acknowledged by not only me, but also demigods and those with dragon heritage. So you just need to master this properly and you will be able to use any kind of magic freely. KULKULKUL….. Of course, if there is any particular subject that you want to specialize, there is a way you can delve into it……”
“Excuse me. I am not understanding any of what you are saying.”
Vulcan raised his hand and interrupted Berenere’s explanation. The elderly mage scrunched.
“The so called genius can’t even understand this? I made it really easy to understand and then explained it…… Hum!”
“No, it’s not that. I don’t understand the current situation at all. Why are you teaching me? Shouldn’t it be Mr. Filder? Also, why are you teaching me the magic theories? Haven’t you heard that I’m a player?”
The situation was just ridiculous to Vulcan.
By the time Vulcan regained consciousness from the storm of enlightenment, the magic attacks that surrounded him and the skeleton king exuding deadly force were no more.
Instead, there were six people, including Filder, staring at Vulcan.
They were extraordinary people in distinctive clothes.
They were staring at Vulcan, as if they were trying to drill a hole through Vulcan with their gazes, which made him extremely uncomfortable.
Vulcan asked Filder for an explanation. Filder stepped forward and looked straight into Vulcan’s eyes.
Just about when it looked like Filder was going to say that the training detail has changed yet again, instead an old man dressed as if he is advertising to say ‘I’m a mage’ grabbed him, and before long, the place had changed to this artificial cave.
It had been an hour already since the lecture on basic magic theory started. There were too many unanswered questions to be listening to this any further.
“What is it? Filder didn’t explain everything to you?”
“He was about to, but you dragged me here before Mr. Filder could speak.”
“What! Then why didn’t you say so until now? Are you making a fool out of me!”
“I was going to tell you, but then you said to shut up and listen for just one hour. Do you not remember?”
“What? I did? HulHulHul…… My bad, despite my age I’m still impatient.”
‘Or you are going senile?’
Berenere looked about as lifeless as mummies that Vulcan saw in PBS and education channels, and that made Vulcan unable to hide his suspicions and doubts about the old man.
Berenere didn’t care. Instead, he stared at empty air and mumbled something. It appeared he was trying to think of something to say, but it also looked as if a ghost possessed Berenere, and that gave Vulcan the creeps.
Finally, finishing his thoughts, Berenere spoke toward Vulcan.
“You are a genius.”
Vulcan sat with a face that screamed ‘Now what is this non-sense,’ which was what he was thinking. However, Berenere looked at Vulcan with an extremely serious face.
Berenere lifted his dried-up little twig like hand and pointed at Vulcan; then he continued.
“Do you have assholes in places of ear-holes? Say something.”
“No, why such harsh words…… I’m just caught off guard, that’s all.”
In fact, Vulcan was so taken by surprise that he couldn’t think for a while.
“What’s there to be surprised about. Didn’t people call you a genius all the time in the world you use to live in?”
“In that dimension, yes… but still, isn’t everyone that comes to this place a genius by default? It’s not like that’s anything special here. Also, as for me, it is not that I am a genius, but instead, I have the power of a player called SYSTEM, which is like a cheat ability, and I’m getting help from it a lot. It’s all power of the SYSTEM. By chance, you don’t know about this?”
“Of course I know about it. Those lazy asses. Those bunch have the talent the size of a rat’s ass, yet they don’t even train properly, and they always go on treasure hunting to look for good skills or weapons. At first, I thought you are just like them…… KULKULKUL KUAPKUAPGUP.”
Berenere laughed hard almost to the point he was going to die from running out of breath, then he fixed his gaze toward Vulcan.
“What do you think your rank is right now?”
“……Level 103, by the standard here, that’s about the bare minimum for the Third-Rate ranking.”
“Wrong. Right now, there would be nothing wrong with calling you a Second-Rate.”
Vulcan snorted after hearing Berenere.
“That can’t be, elder. It appears you don’t know much about players. We players can assess people’s strength accurately. Compared to how I was two month ago, there is hardly anything that changed……”
“I get that the level is about same. I’m talking about what you call the masteries. You are not aware because you don’t know any players around here, but I do. Players with your kind of Thunder God mastery usually have levels of 200 or above. It’s a kind of mastery that may or may not be possible even with ten years of repeated training. HULHUL.”
“It looks like you are still not getting it…… Hum.”
Berenere scratched his back with his staff on his right hand.
“You used to be, what was that…… Max Level, Level 99? How long did it take to get there?”
“…… about 5 years?”
“Others usually take 30 years to get there. Even with that, compared to you, their masteries are substantially lower. What do you think is the cause of the difference?”
Now even Vulcan couldn’t do anything but to acknowledge it.
Vulcan asked Berenere with a sincere face.
“Because…… I am a genius?”
Like a dark mage scheming an evil plot, Berenere laughed ominously. His voice was full of laughter.
“You say such a boastful thing without any reservation.”
“That’s… you kept telling me I’m a genius…”
“Is proclaiming it yourself the same as others telling you so? KULKULKUL.”
“Now, just what….”
“Anyway, enough about this.”
‘Ugh… this guy really gets on my ……’
It spoiled Vulcan’s mood to see Berenere flipping between compliments and belittlement.
Vulcan complained inside without letting it be shown and continued tuning to Berenere.
“But, isn’t it odd? From what I know, the only way for a player to increase mastery is repeated training, but as I said earlier, the difference between you and other ordinary players are big enough to be very obvious at his point. According to Filder, you got to where you are through harsh training unlike other lazy bums, but even that cannot explain this difference.”
“You can understand the question just by looking at the answer.”
Vulcan, confused, stared at Berenere.
“What do you mean by that? Explain it in a way that makes sense……”
“Just stay put! An elder is talking!”
‘You lousy old man!’
“Take a moderately complicated math problem for instance. Most people seek a solution method before solving the problem. They understand the intent of the question first, formulate solution steps and find the answer. Building upon this, smart ones are able to go further and solve different but applicable problems of similar nature, and in some cases, they are able to find clues as to how to solve a more difficult problem. As people solve problems this way, over time, they gain problem solving skills and reach new heights.”
Berenere took a breather and continued.
“On the other hand, players solve problems by asking for the answers directly. The smartypants called SYSTEM or whatever always knows and tells you the answers, so why put any effort into understanding the problem? With the SYSTEM constantly spoon-feeding the answers, players don’t learn anything. Instead they just repeat skill names like parrots. There is no progress. They look pathetic yelling ‘Ice Missile!’ just to cast such a low level magic. It’s really tacky! The true power of magic doesn’t require such.”
Vulcan avoided eye contact. He felt uncomfortable because it felt like Berenere was talking about him.
“KULKUL, I wasn’t talking about you specifically, so take it easy. Of course, you do have some bad habits of players. Nobody in the world would study hard when answers to test questions always just appear in front of them.”
“Still, like I said earlier, even the likes of you can have differences. You understand the question just by looking at the answer. Just by looking at the answer, you understand the question and have a rough guess on how to solve it to get to the answer. It is no surprise that your mastery increases faster than other players that only memorize answers to specific questions.”
Vulcan felt unexplained itch listening to Berenere.
It was a feeling of excitement, but at the same time, he felt embarrassed. Before those feelings engulfed Vulcan, he tossed a quick question.
“If what you are saying is true, then you are teaching me the basic magic because……”
“You have a talent where you can understand about half of the problem just by looking at the answer. You were able to do that even without a teacher to show you. What would happen if you were taught properly by a teacher on the basics? I addition, you have the power of SYSTEM which tells you the answers in critical moments. It is no wonder Filder has high hopes for you. HULHULHUL.”
Vulcan felt a burning sensation filling up his chest.
It wasn’t because he was acknowledged by Filder and Berenere, the two extremely powerful beings with incalculable levels.
It was acknowledgement of not Vulcan the player, but Vulcan the human being.
This was the first time Vulcan was assessed on the merit of being a person alone, without the aid of SYSTEM included in the consideration.
Vulcan’s strength, rapid growth speed and superior fighting tactics were all acquired through his hard work. Vulcan took pride in having had put in more sweat and hard work than anyone in past five years, and in fact he didn’t see anybody else around that worked as hard as him.
However, he felt uncomfortable and doubted himself because in corner of his mind, he always wondered if he achieved it all through the power of SYSTEM, not by his own.
This was why he could not stand proud whenever anyone gazed upon him with compliment, envy or jealousy.
Vulcan always felt a little lacking in confidence and pride.
However, now all those feelings of insecurities flew away at an instant, all because of a few words from Berenere, an old man standing over there scratching his thigh with his staff.
Vulcan decided to trust Filder and Berenere.
Vulcan had already been following Filder’s training to the letters, but he now felt that he could follow their guidance with an even greater sense of trust.
“Train me. Please take a good care of me from now on. Elder.”
Vulcan stood up and gave Berenere a proper 90 degrees angle bow.
Berenere was not used to bows because he came from a different culture, but he could certainly feel the sincerity coming from Vulcan.
“KULKUL, it has been a lousy year and now I got an apprentice.”
Berenere gazed upon Vulcan with approval.
On a training ground the size of two soccer fields, Berenere’s phlegm-filled voice echoed.
“Hey you numbskull! What’s taking you so long! Can’t you understand this!”
‘Fuck! I thought you said I was a genius!’
Vulcan complained inside.
Buy us some coffee!