Descent of the Demon Master - C.722. Grappling (2)

Descent of the Demon Master

C.722. Grappling (2)

"Good day to you, senior."

"Oh. Hi, Hyeon-Tae."

Park Yu-Min immediately ran into Gwok Hyeon-Tae after exiting the team's practice area. As the younger of the two, Gwok Hyeon-Tae naturally bowed his head first to greet his senior.

'It's still awkward as hell, though...'

Park Yu-Min sighed a little. As a pro gamer, competition was inevitable. No, that wasn't quite right. It should be more like... Any living person wouldn't be able to avoid conflict in their lives. Maybe there was a place in the world where everyone lived a happy, trouble-free life, but that place was definitely not here.

Despite knowing that, running into a competitor like this was still an awkward affair. Especially when that competition was almost over, and the winner had already been decided.

Gwok Hyeon-Tae politely asked, "How was your practice, senior?"

"It went as usual," Park Yu-Min replied, his voice remaining awkward as before.

When he first showed up at the team's premises to do the entrance test, Gwok Hyeon-Tae was overflowing with confidence. So much so that it was verging on arrogance, too. However, Park Yu-Min didn't necessarily view that as a bad thing. If he was being honest... He was a bit envious of Gwok Hyeon-Tae's personality.

However, Gwok Hyeon-Tae grew progressively more timid and withdrawn as Park Yu-Min overtook him. His past arrogance was nowhere to be seen now. Being humble to a point shouldn't be seen as something bad, but Gwok Hyeon-Tae... He had shrunk to the point where he might as well be a different person now.

Although this development was not ideal...

'There isn't much I can do for him...'

If Park Yu-Min wasn't Gwok Hyeon-Tae's rival for the position in the team, he might have plenty of advice to give to the younger pro gamer. Unfortunately, Park Yu-Min was about to take away Gwok Hyeon-Tae's spot. In that case, what could he even say?

"Then, uh... See you later, Hyeon-Tae."

"...Uhm, senior?"


"...Can we talk for a minute? Please?"

Park Yu-Min noticed how Gwok Hyeon-Tae's politely-gathered hands were fidgeting nervously. After seeing that, he couldn't bring himself to say no and quietly nodded away.


"What should I do, senior?"

That was the first thing Gwok Hyeon-Tae asked as soon as the duo found an empty table in a nearby cafe.

Park Yu-Min couldn't hide his flabbergast and had to ask back. "What do you mean?"

"...Well, uh, I've been practicing hard, you know? I know I'm trying my best, but my skills... They aren't improving at all."

"Hmm..." Park Yu-Min leaned against his chair.

"It feels like this is as far as I can go, and... In that case, shouldn't I quickly look for another job or something...?"

Park Yu-Min sighed deeply. "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"

Gwok Hyeon-Tae shook his head. "No. Please go ahead."

"Okay. Why are you asking me this, Hyeon-Tae?"

"...I'm sorry?" Gwok Hyeon-Tae raised his head only for his gaze to meet Park Yu-Min's mid-air.

"I figured I might be the most uncomfortable person for you to talk to, you see? So, why did you go out of your way to seek me out and ask that question? There are other people you could ask for advice, right? Like the team director, for instance."

"Oh, uh..." Gwok Hyeon-Tae's hands resumed fidgeting nervously.

Park Yu-Min suddenly realized something while staring at the younger pro gamer.

'Right... Jin-Ho must've felt this way in the past.'

Park Yu-Min used to be like that. Gwok Hyeon-Tae's confidence had taken a temporary knock, but Park Yu-Min had never been confident with himself. When others asked him about something, he'd usually hesitate, unable to reply right away. That was because he was scared about other people taking his replies the wrong way.

Since he understood that feeling only too well, Park Yu-Min didn't urge Gwok Hyeon-Tae on and silently waited. In moments like this, being patient was the best response.

"It's... Because it's you, senior," said Gwok Hyeon-Tae.


"I mean... Practically everyone who plays video games gets excited from watching your matches, you know? I was also your fan in my amateur days."

"...Thanks, I guess." Park Yu-Min expressed his gratitude despite knowing that this response wasn't exactly the correct one in this kind of situation. Of course, that didn't mean he failed to figure out the intention behind what Gwok Hyeon-Tae said.

People had this tendency to subconsciously try to emulate their idols' attitudes on life. If the person they respected and idolized was an animal lover, the fans would become interested in animal welfare, too. It was the same story if the target of idolization was a vegan—the fans would at least try to learn more about a vegetables-only diet.

So, Gwok Hyeon-Tae must be hoping without any factual basis that his idol, Park Yu-Min, held some clues to the mysteries tormenting him.

Park Yu-Min sighed at length.

'I'm not as amazing as you think, Hyeon-Tae...'

Park Yu-Min had gotten a little older, and his status and position had changed. Even so, he still found trying to respond to people's expectations of him uncomfortable and difficult. After all, he believed he hadn't changed from his old self.

"You think your skills haven't gotten better?" Park Yu-Min asked.

"Yes, senior."

"It doesn't feel like you're asking me how to improve your gaming skills, so... Are you wondering what you should do as a pro gamer?"

"Yes, senior," Gwok Hyeon-Tae weightily nodded. "I mean, a pro gamer's career is super-short, isn't it? If I don't have the talent and there's no future for me in this line of work, I figured I should find something else right away."

"Hmm..." Park Yu-Min contemplatively nodded while thinking that Gwok Hyeon-Tae wasn't wrong. However, something about what the younger pro gamer said bothered him just a little bit. "Why did you start thinking that way, though?"

"Well, like I told you, my future..."

"I'm asking you because that's not what it looks like to me."

"I'm sorry?"

Park Yu-Min wordlessly studied Gwok Hyeon-Tae before saying the follow-up. "Even if there's no future, aren't you still too young to worry about stuff like that? You already achieved so much in this profession at nineteen years old, so doesn't that mean you have a knack for e-sports? And the salary you get will place you at the very top of your age group, you know? And you still have room to grow, too."


"You have all those positives going for you, yet you are thinking about quitting already. That makes me think there's another reason. It must be one of these two, right? One, you lost interest in e-sports and playing games has become a torture for you. Or..."

"N-no, that's not it," Gwok Hyeon-Tae hurriedly waved his hands. "I still love playing games, senior. Sure, it's work now, so I can't play like I used to and have fun. Even so, I really love doing this."

Park Yu-Min could see how earnest Gwok Hyeon-Tae was from the latter's expression and words. So, he moved to the second possible reason. "That leaves us with... You're scared, right?"


"Playing the game is scaring you, is it... Well, it's a phase everyone in this line of work will have to go through at least once. I was also like that once. Even holding the mouse scared me back then."

"Really? That happened to you before, too?"

"The pre-tournament jitters got so bad for me back then, and I couldn't even eat properly."


Park Yu-Min slowly shook his head after recalling those memories. "I tried so hard to fix that habit of mine, but nothing worked. I guess it's because of how timid I am. Whenever there was a tournament around the corner, I'd get severe insomnia and a loss of appetite. And looking at a computer monitor made me hyperventilate like an asthma patient. It got so bad that I had to go and talk to a shrink about it several times. You know what the doctor told me? Since the pressure is the culprit, I should try to relax more. Isn't that dumb, though? If I could relax so easily like that, why would I go see a shrink in the first place?"

"Well, yes, that's true..."

"I didn't have much choice after that. If I was in a different profession, I could've taken the prescribed medication to calm my jitters, but you know how a pro gamer needs to exercise exacting control during the game, don't you? We can't even carelessly drink cough syrup, for crying out loud. In the end, I had to endure it on my own."

"...I see."

Park Yu-Min leaned against his chair. "Now, let's hear it. What’s been scaring you?"

Gwok Hyeon-Tae's head faltered. He deeply pondered something in silence for what felt like an eternity. Even then, Park Yu-Min didn't try to urge the younger pro gamer on.

A dilemma that might seem insignificant to others could be something deeply personal to the person going through that very dilemma. This concept applied so perfectly to Park Yu-Min. The stuff that saddled him with such agony and pain back then felt like immature crap when he reflected on them now.

If Park Yu-Min hadn't befriended Kang Jin-Ho... Maybe he could still be suffering from the same pain and sorrow even now.

'That's why I need to wait for Hyeon-Tae.'

Even if he couldn't approach the people in need first and offer a helping hand, he shouldn't reject people earnestly asking him for help. That was what Sister Yi tried to teach the kids, and it was also something Park Yu-Min learned from Kang Jin-Ho.

"I'm scared because..." Gwok Hyeon-Tae finally cracked his lips open. "Everything might go back to how it used to be as if nothing had happened."

"As if... nothing had happened?" Park Yu-Min narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, senior, " Gwok Hyeon-Tae weightily nodded. "Before I started gaming, kids in my class were starting to treat me a bit like an outcast, you see...?"

"Mm...!" Park Yu-Min's expression grew somber.

"When I think back to those days... Had that situation continued on, I think bullies would've started picking on me for real. The signs were all there, you see? Thankfully, I was pretty good at games, so the kids with clout in the school wanted to hang out and play some games with me, and... And I eventually became a pro."

"I see. That's what happened."

"I mean... In this day and age, your life will change for the better if you're good at playing games. I can't even imagine what I would be doing right now if it weren't for video games. But... If I fail to become the best in this profession, then... Will I return to my old life? What if I get rubbish results even after trying my best and working my butt off? Would I fall back to that Hell after wasting all this time? That's the only thing I can think about lately..."

Gwok Hyeon-Tae finally finished his confession. His expression was gloomy.

Park Yu-Min wordlessly studied Gwok Hyeon-Tae before raising his voice. "Hyeon-Tae..."

"Yes, senior?"

"How many people do you think can be legitimately called the best of the best in the world?"

Gwok Hyeon-Tae raised his head in confusion.

Park Yu-Min continued on. "Let's say there are ten top-rankers in every category. Even then, there can't be that many, right? So, tell me. Do you think the people outside the top ten are all wasting time trying to live a worthless life?"

"N-no, I don't think so..."

"Yeah, that's how it is. I get what you're trying to say. I used to think that too, you know? I wanted to become the best of the best, and it'd be meaningless not to. I don't really care about what happens in other professions, but at least in this one specific thing, I must become the best there is. I must never lose to anyone. If I can't even do that, I have no value." Park Yu-Min paused there and shrugged his shoulders. "I was even worse off than you, Hyeon-Tae. Don't forget that I have a physical disability. If I can't become the best in e-sports, I'd never be able to escape the label of being one of the weakest in our society. That's what I used to think. And that's what made me obsessively play games and get better at them. Eventually, I managed to get the results I wanted... But what about now? What have I earned after all that?"

Gwok Hyeon-Tae tilted his head. "You became the best of the best, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I did. In the past, though. Am I still the best now?"


"Of course not," Park Yu-Min resolutely shook his head. "No one maintains their position as the best of the best forever, Hyeon-Tae. Eventually, you'd fall from the top someday. That is what you've been wishing to reach all this time. To become the best. To reach the pinnacle that you can't stay forever and will become nothing more than a momentary glory for you. So, tell me, Hyeon-Tae. Let's say you did reach that position but couldn't hold on to it. Can you tell me what has changed in your life?"

Gwok Hyeon-Tae dazedly stared at Park Yu-Min. If someone else said all those things, Gwok Hyeon-Tae would've dismissed them as a whole lot of hot air and not much more. However, Park Yu-Min had already climbed to the top before. The weight carried in his words was much heavier as a result.

"Maybe it's still too early for me to say this. I'm still young, after all. However, at the risk of sounding like an insolent little brat... I believe life is about building your mountain."

"Building... a mountain?" Gwok Hyeon-Tae looked genuinely confused.

"Yup, a mountain. You're not climbing to reach its peak but steadily building toward it. You're not supposed to race toward the summit to plant your flag and then hurriedly descend to the ground. No, I believe you're supposed to combine and layer all these small moments into a foundation and building blocks."

"I... see. Building a mountain..."

"Mountains different people build in their lifetime would never be exact replicas of each other. We have different talents and methods of going about achieving our goals, after all. So, don't get discouraged or disappointed even if you're not the best right now. You're still steadily building your mountain even now. And you might get to build an even taller mountain later. What if you stop because your mountain is smaller than the one built by a person next to you?"

"It won't get built anymore?"

"Yup. You got it," Park Yu-Min smiled brightly. "From your perspective, it must look like I've fallen from the top and am trying desperately to climb back up again. But that's not what I think. That part of my life already has become my foundation, my building block. And now, I'm steadily building my mountain to reach higher."


"People keep saying doing your best is more important than becoming the best, don't they? I used to think that's a load of rubbish. If you can't become the best or produce the kind of result you want to see, who cares about trying your best and whatnot? But I know now that that saying shouldn't be interpreted that way. Even if you become the best, you'll still fall behind when you rest on your laurels. Even if you can't see anything before you right now, keep trying your best and you will eventually win. That's what it means."

"I... It's too difficult, senior."

"Yeah, I guess so," Park Yu-Min gently chuckled. "How about this? I'm sure it's tough for you. And you must be agonizing over so many things. And deeply worried, too. However, no one can resolve those things for you. Only you can decide which road you want to walk on."

Gwok Hyeon-Tae slowly nodded. "...Yes, that's true."

"Keep agonizing over it. Think long and hard until you find your answer. In the meantime..." Park Yu-Min sucked in a deep breath before finishing the rest of his advice. "Don't stop walking forward, okay? Even if you're forced to walk back one day, the fact that you got to take one more step forward will become an invaluable experience for the rest of your life."

"Even if it's a waste of time?"

"Your experience won't go anywhere, though. Maybe all your hard work won't result in the best outcome for you, at least not right now. Still, wouldn't it be slightly better to have tried your best than not even trying in the first place?"

"...I guess so."

"And you keep building your mountain with those slightly better things. As you keep building and building... Eventually, your mountain will be much taller than before. At least, that's what I believe."

Gwok Hyeon-Tae roughly scratched his head. "It's so hard to understand, senior. But... I think I kinda get it. Sort of, I guess?"

"Sorry about not being much of a help."

"No, senior... hyung. You've been a great help. Also..." Gwok Hyeon-Tae got up, then bowed his head toward Park Yu-Min. "I'm really sorry about acting like an arrogant idiot back then."

"No need to apologize. Because I'm planning to become supremely arrogant from now on."

Gwok Hyeon-Tae's head rose up. "Eh?"

"Just kidding." Park Yu-Min chuckled jovially.

'Yup, it must be difficult...'

Everyone was bound to agonize over something eventually. And no one found living a life a cakewalk either. Even then, they all had to keep walking forward.

Park Yu-Min turned his head to look in a Westerly direction. His friend was probably trying his best to live his life, too.

'If I keep building my mountain everyday, I'll eventually catch up to him. Even if that takes a lifetime...'

Not just receiving help one-sidedly, but creating a relationship of equals where friends could offer help to each other... That was what Park Yu-Min was building toward. That goal was still so far away, though. However, he had zero plans to give up now.

Gwok Hyeon-Tae tilted his head. "Hyung?"

Park Yu-Min looked back at the younger pro gamer. "What's up?"

"Aren't you gonna look at your phone?"

"My phone? Did I... leave it behind or something? Anyway, what happened?"

"I got a Katalk just now, and... I'm supposed to look for you because you are late for a scrim?"[1]

"Hiiieeek?!" Park Yu-Min freaked out and jumped up to his feet. He broke into a full-blooded sprint toward the team's practice hall. "I'm going ahead!"

"W-wait! Hyung!" Gwok Hyeon-Tae watched Park Yu-Min practically leap outside the cafe's exit and could only chuckle hollowly at that scene. "That hyung can be pretty weird sometimes..."

Still, Gwok Hyeon-Tae felt like a load had been taken off his shoulders. Although the path forward was murky and unclear, he still made up his mind to keep forging ahead and see where it'd take him.

1. Katalk is a messaging app developed by Korea's Kakao Corporation, and it's kinda like WhatsApp. It's super popular in Korea and with Korean expats. ☜

This chapter is updated by freew(e)bnovel.(c)om