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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
Dad pulled me behind him and thrust his sword at the lightning-fast shadow that had pounced on us.
Sparks flew as Dad’s blade collided with the claws of a beast.
Dad was pushed back, but he immediately corrected his posture and fixed his gaze on the enemy that had ambushed us.
The true form of the beast was a tiger as large as a house. It circled around us slowly, baring its sharp fangs and growling at us.
“…There are no traps, but the pharmacist did mention something about a beast.”
“Son, why didn’t you tell me that earlier?” Dad couldn’t turn around to check on me since had to keep his attention focused on the tiger, but I did see him rolling his eyes in dismay.
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I shamelessly replied, “I didn’t think he was telling the truth.”
If I remember right, this was what Maeng Ho-Ak said to me before:
“By the way, there was a teeny tiny tiger living near the shack.”
“Yeah. It wanted to eat me, so I punished it a little. I then thought about eating it for dinner, but I was already full, so I let it go in the hopes that it would prevent other animals from approaching the shack.”
“Is that tiger still alive?”
“I don’t know. Tigers don’t usually live for very long, but there’s a spiritual qi-filled hot spring right next to the shack… Anyway, if it were still alive, it would probably have grown quite a bit bigger by now. Perhaps I should go catch it and eat it when I get out of here… I think it’ll make for a very nutritious meal!”
“Tsk. I guess you’re so old and senile that you’ll eat just about anything, huh?”
“What did you just say? Crazy Demon, you bastard! Die!”
Now that I think about it, that entire conversation happened decades ago. If this tiger is the same “teeny tiny tiger” that the Bandit King had mentioned, then…
“…I mean, who’d believe that spiritual beasts actually existed?”
“You’re trying to piss me off on purpose, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not. Really.”
I turned my gaze away from Dad’s piercing stare and looked at the giant tiger that was three times as large as an ordinary tiger.
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Upset that its territory had been invaded, the tiger scratched the ground with its claws. Every time that happened, the hard soil looked more and more like a plowed paddy field.
Moreover, from the fact that it was observing us warily after a failed ambush instead of continuing its attack, it was probably a lot more intelligent than a normal wild beast.
“Son, if we back down now, I don’t think the beast will chase after us.”
“Dad, if we sell that tiger skin, we won’t have to worry about surviving the winter this year.”
“…Poverty is a sin.”
I looked pitifully at the old shoulders that had to bear with the burden of supporting a family for so many years…and decided to keep my mouth shut for now.
The tiger’s gaze was fixed on Dad, as it had probably judged that I wasn’t a threat to it.
Well…it wasn’t wrong. Still, regardless of how smart a tiger can be, it still wouldn’t be smart enough to take a hostage.
That means, I can just sit back, relax, and watch the show!
I retreated to a safe spot, then shouted in a way that I felt wouldn’t provoke the tiger, “Dad! Although I can only watch you from afar, I will pray for your victory!”
“You little punk! You’ll pay for this!”
When he was done swearing at me, Dad charged forward and leapt at the tiger.
At the same time, the giant tiger also roared and pounced on Dad.
The clash of the martial arts master and a ferocious beast was like a painting that had come to life. I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming, “Keep up the good work! Both of you!”
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As expected of a spiritual beast, the tiger was much stronger and more agile than a normal animal. Even if Dad was a first-class martial artist, he would wind up cornered by the beast and squashed like a melon if he wasn’t careful.
Woah, this tiger’s strikes are powerful enough to rip through metal armor.
Neither the combined strength of ten experienced tiger hunters, nor an average first-class martial artist would be able to take that giant tiger down.
Fortunately, Dad was no average martial artist.
For the first time, I saw Dad use his skills to the fullest. The fight with that fake Namgoong Wook from the Jin Academy incident hadn’t even scratched the surface of Dad’s strength.
His practiced movements flowed as smoothly and gently as water. His footwork was nimble yet forceful; his sword slashes quick yet sharp and focused.
Looking at this from a purely technical standpoint, Dad could probably fight toe-to-toe with a peak level expert. His technique is so polished that even a former Blood Cult instructor like me has nothing to say about it.
That’s proof that Dad hasn’t stopped training for a single day since retiring to the countryside. However…
I frowned and mumbled to myself, “If that’s the case, then why…does it seem like there’s something hindering him?”
“The hell are you mumbling? If you think that I’m being hindered, why don’t you fight instead!” Dad yelled.
…Oops, he heard me. How on earth is his hearing so good even while fighting?
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Anyway, it was difficult to say what the exact problem was just watching him fight.
The only thing that I can be certain of is…
Dad had already reached the pinnacle of the first-class level and only needed one small breakthrough to reach peak level. However, there was something preventing him from making that breakthrough. It was a problem I had seen several times before in the past.
Dad’s problem is mental, not physical.
I just happened to have some experience helping people with such problems.
“Need any help?”
“Forget it, you damn punk! You’ll only get in my way!” roared Dad as he charged at the tiger. The speed of his slashes increased, and with it the intensity of his assault.
SWISH! SLASH! WHISH!
Unfortunately, the tiger wasn’t an opponent he could defeat by simply going wild. Not only was it agile enough to dodge many of his attacks, it had very high defense and Dad’s sword could only leave shallow wounds on its body.
Seeing that his attacks were ineffective, Dad started to get visibly impatient.
“Seriously, where did this thing come from… YAHHH!”
As Dad screamed, I noticed blue Sword Qi suddenly gather around his sword. With a grimace, I immediately yelled, “No, Dad! Don’t push it!”
The biggest difference between a first-class expert and a peak-level expert was the ability to emit Sword Qi. Every martial artist dreamed of achieving Sword Qi, as a blade coated in sword qi was so sharp and strong that it would easily slice an ordinary sword in half.
In addition, besides being used to coat a sword, the emitted qi can be controlled in various other ways, allowing a peak-level expert to easily deal with more than ten first-class experts.
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The difference between peak-level and the stages before it was so stark, it was also commonly referred to as the Superhuman Level; the stage where one exceeded human limits.
What Dad is doing now, however…
In order to forcibly emit Sword Qi, Dad’s footwork and breathing had become chaotic. That wasn’t the way a true peak-level expert should be.
SWOOSH! WHISH! SLASH!
Dad slashed at the tiger’s stomach time and time again. As blood dripped down from the tiger’s belly, the tiger howled in pain.
Unfortunately, the tiger wasn’t the only one that had to suffer over Dad’s recklessness.
The tiger instinctively struck out wildly with its front paws. Dad tried to block the attacks with his sword, but was sent flying by the sheer force of the blows.
…And of all things, he had to land exactly on top of a large rock.
“GUAAAAAH!” Dad shrieked as his back broke.
Blood flowed from Dad’s wound and quickly drenched his clothes. Both Dad and the tiger were now severely injured.
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The tiger slowly got to its feet and desperately pounced at Dad, quick as lightning, as if it was squeezing out all its remaining energy for one last attack.
Dad, who had yet to come to his senses, would not be able to dodge that blow. At that moment, I could only…throw the pebble in my hand with all my might.
The pebble accurately hit the wound on the tiger’s belly, causing it to leap to the side in pain. In the meantime, I sprinted toward Dad and helped him up.
“Are you okay?” I asked, but Dad only glared at me fiercely while wiping the blood off his mouth.
Hmm? Is he angry at me for interfering in his fight with the tiger?
“Don’t stick your nose into this fight, it’s too dangerous for you. That guy is my prey…”
“Excuse me, but you don’t sound very convincing when you’re the one who is covered in blood. Also, if you die, then I’ll be the next one to die.”
“You can still run away…”
“Cut the crap.”
The furious tiger roared and limped toward us, eyes bloodshot. I quickly hid behind Dad and nudged him forward.
“Go fight to your heart’s content. I’ll cover your back.”
I picked up another pebble and tossed it in the air, then caught it deftly and said, “That way, the chances of both of us surviving are much higher, am I right?”
“…You cheeky little punk.”
Dad sighed, then dashed toward the tiger again.
As he ran, I yelled, “Also, don’t use your sword qi anymore! You don’t need it! The belly is its weak point!”
“I know that even without you telling me, you damn brat!”
“If you knew that, then why did you do something so stupid?”
“You…just wait till we get home.”
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That said, Dad clashed with the tiger once again. Although both sides were heavily injured and their movements slowed, the battle was even more brutal and intense than before.
BAM! BOOM! BANG!
I turned my waist, raised my shoulder, and prepared to throw another pebble at the tiger, but I could sense that it was wary of me from the way it glanced at me from time to time.
I broke into a large grin and stared the beast right back in the face.
The pebble I threw struck the tiger’s eye, causing it to immediately shift its attention toward me. I wasn’t at all worried, though, since I had a very reliable bodyguard protecting me.
“Hey! I’m your opponent!”
Dad persistently slashed at the tiger, while I periodically distracted it by throwing pebbles and bruising it.
A spiritual beast this strong should have an inner pearl1, right?
Drool dripped down my chin as I thought of the battle rewards.
The sound of a beast as large as a house collapsing to the ground echoed around the mountains. Dad stepped forward and stabbed his sword through the tiger’s neck to ensure that it was dead, then leaned against the carcass and lay down.
“Gasp…Gasp… If I do this two more times, I’ll be forced to close down the Baek Academy.”
“Why do you have to close it down? All you have to do is make me the new director.”
“When we get home I’ll… huff… Ahh I don’t even have the strength to argue with you anymore…”
“You should get some rest first.”
I sliced the tiger’s belly open and retrieved its inner pearl, which was only a little bit larger than my thumbnail. Thanks to Dad, the tiger’s stomach area was already covered in wounds, so cutting its skin wasn’t hard.
“Ehh, this inner pearl is a lot smaller than I thought it’d be.”
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“With our skills, defeating a spiritual beast of this level is the limit. We won’t be able to obtain any bigger pearls than this.”
*Well, the inner pearl is just a bonus, anyway. The tiger skin, bones, meat, and internal organs are also worth a lot of money. *
With the money from selling the tiger’s carcass, the Baek Academy would have enough to stay warm throughout the frigid winter.
“Let’s take a short break, then check out the shack.”
A short while later, Dad and I searched every nook and cranny of the shack to accomplish our original objective, but we didn’t find any elixirs or medicines.
“Where did the old man hide it…”
“Son! Over here!”
I went around to the back of the shack, where I heard Dad calling for me. There, in between the shack and the hot spring, there was a small garden.
And in the small garden, there were three stalks of tuber fleeceflowers. 2
Dad carefully observed the herbs, then suddenly exclaimed, “These tuber fleeceflowers are at least a few hundred years old!”
Because of my illness, Dad was familiar with all sorts of herbs. However, when he saw the tuber fleeceflowers, he looked a little disappointed.
“These herbs are indeed rare, but…”
Dad didn’t finish speaking, but I understood what he meant even without him saying it. To his knowledge, three hundred-year tuber fleeceflowers were far from enough to treat my Heavenly Yin Blocked Meridians. After all, he had already fed me a ton of herbs, many better than these ones.
Still, he doesn’t know that the real reason those herbs had no effect, was because the original Baek Su-Ryong did not know how to effectively use them.
Even the Shaolin Temple’s Great Cycles Pill was useless if one did not know the method of converting the Heavenly Yin Blocked Meridians to the Heavenly Yin Divine Meridians.
My problem right now is that although I know the method, I don’t have the money to buy all the ingredients I needed. Even if I obtained and sold hundreds of these tuber fleeceflowers, the money would still be insufficient.
I carefully dug up the tuber fleeceflower roots, which were the important parts, and then asked Dad, “Is it okay if I eat all these?”
I thought that Dad would immediately complain about me not sharing the good stuff with him (I did plan to offer one of them to him), but Dad unexpectedly shook his head, saying, “Herbs like these won’t have any effect on a person my age.”
“Hmm, I suppose you’re right. There’s no point in a widower like you eating these, since you’ll just get excited by yourself… That would most certainly be a waste.”
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Ouch, I got bonked for poking fun at him.
Anyway, these three herbs should be enough for me to set the foundation for the rest of the treatment down properly.
It was just a minor thing, but as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I put the herbs away, stood up, and said, “Dad, since we went to the trouble of coming all the way here, want to take a bath in the hot spring?”
I recalled Master Maeng once telling me about how the steam coming out of the hot spring next to the shack contained a mysterious power and couldn’t help but snigger to myself.
“I chose to build my safe house here because of the hot spring.
“I guess it has something like spiritual power? Whenever I circulated my qi while bathing in the hot spring, I would accumulate several times more qi than normal. Also, my muscles would feel relaxed and I’d never get tired no matter how long I trained…
“Hmm? What’s with that look on your face? Did you think that it was some kind of precious opportunity? Hah! If precious opportunities were common in the mountains, the mountain bandits would have taken over the murim a long time ago!
“…Even if you don’t believe me, did you have to take away my meat? You motherfucking cheapskate!”
Those times are just a memory now. They’ll never come back.
I walked toward the hot spring. My main objective was accomplished, and I was utterly exhausted from both the fight and the long hike.
I stuck my finger into the spring to test how hot it was…and then froze for a few minutes.
“What’s the matter?” Dad asked.
“…Master Maeng is a blithering idiot.”
“Who on earth is Master Maeng?”
“He is…a person I need to give thanks to.”
“Son, are you okay?”
“Did you think that it was some kind of precious opportunity?”
Maeng Ho-Ak, that dumbass…this hot spring is indeed a precious opportunity that is found on a mountain! It’s just that the famous Bandit King was incapable of recognizing this great opportunity even though it was right in front of him!!
That’s right, that guy was a musclebrain who only knew how to train his body. What would a blockhead who can’t even distinguish between different weapons know about precious opportunities?
I turned my head away from the hot spring with difficulty and stared Dad in the eye, saying, “Dad, let’s forget about the tuber fleeceflowers for now.”
“Huh? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Look over there.”
I pointed toward a faintly glowing deep blue stone about the size of two fists at the bottom of the spring.
In my past life, I only saw that kind of unique color once. It was only for a moment, but that moment was impossible for me to forget.
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This was the metal ore of my dreams.
A legendary metal that was used to make the Blood Demon sword.
I’m sure of it. That’s Meteor Iron (隕鉄).
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