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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!


“Is that all the luggage you’re taking with you?”

“Yes.”

I lightly patted the small traveling bag slung over my shoulder. Inside, there were several extra sets of clothing, nutrient pills, medicinal pills, and books.

On my waist, I carried a sword. Although I was never particularly picky about weapons, I couldn’t really go wrong choosing a sword, the most general purpose weapon of them all.

Additionally, before I left the village, there was something I needed a sword to do.

“It’ll take you about a month to get to the Azure Dragon Academy on foot.”

If I chose to ride on a horse carriage instead, I could probably reach my destination in half the time, but I wanted to train my physical strength and endurance during the journey.

“Master! Be sure to make it big!”

When the sniveling brats had heard that I was leaving the village, they came to the Baek Academy training grounds to send me off.

Jang Yi, my self-proclaimed disciple, grabbed onto my arm and said, “When I turn fifteen, I’ll take the entrance exam to enter the Azure Dragon Academy! If I pass, then you have to teach me your martial arts! That’s a promise, man to man!”

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Oh my. This self-proclaimed “man” is crying like a baby.

I pinched the brat’s cheeks and grinned mischievously, replying, “Alright.”

The minimum age of admission to the Azure Dragon Academy was fifteen. Occasionally, younger students would be accepted by recommendation from the great families or powerful sects, but even that was rare.

I stretched out the brat’s cheeks and continued, “However, in five years, I might have already transferred from the Azure Dragon Academy to the Heavenly Martial Academy.”

Although both academies belonged to the murim’s Five Great Academies, there was a gaping difference between the two.

One of those differences was, of course, the instructors’ monthly salaries.

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For now, I plan to gain some experience at the Azure Dragon Academy before transferring to the Heavenly Martial Academy as a professional instructor.

“In that case, I’ll also go to the Heavenly Martial Academy. No matter what, I want to learn Master’s martial arts!”

Probably because he was a village bumpkin who had never seen the outside world, Jang Yi seemed to believe that I was the strongest martial artist in the world.

Kids his age change their life aspirations every time they wake up in the morning, so he’ll probably forget all about me and martial arts within a few days of me leaving…

I thoughtlessly patted the boy on the head.

“Well then, the entrance exam for the Heavenly Martial Academy is famous for being difficult, so you’ll have to train super hard while I’m not around.”

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“Yes, I will!”

Well, I mixed in several training methods from the Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw into the stuff I taught the kids, so as long as he works hard, he’ll definitely grow stronger and healthier.

“Su-Ryong, please make sure to take care of yourself, alright?”

“Here, have some of my pan-fried pancakes.1 You can eat them when you’re hungry.”

“The weather’s been kind of hot lately, so take this with you. It’s our store’s best black bamboo hat.2

“Walking will wear out your shoes, so please take this brand new pair with you.”

Besides Jang Yi and the other snot-nosed brats, many of the villagers had also come to send me off, bringing with them gifts including snacks, shoes, hats, and porn books.

Hmm? There’s something weird among those things…

These people must have come here because of Dad’s good reputation. Touched, I warmly greeted every single one of them.

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There were truly a lot of people.

Wait, would this many villagers have gathered if one of their sons had gotten first place in the imperial examinations? I highly doubt it…

Also, why are their eyes brimming with anticipation and excitement?

“So, when is the duel going to start? I heard that you wouldn’t let your son leave unless he wins?” said the eighty-year-old Old Man Kwak tactlessly.

I stared at them, but the villagers instantly shut their mouths and avoided my gaze.

So that was it. Seriously, these nosy people…

I spun around and glared daggers at Dad, saying, “You’re the one who spread that rumor, aren’t you?”

“If you’re not confident, you can still back out now.”

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“No can do.”

I placed the villagers’ gifts to the side and stood opposite Dad.

Dad shot me a disapproving look before finally sighing, “Are you really going to do this?”

“Yes.”

I briefly recalled the day I ate the tuber fleeceflower roots and had the dust swept off me by Dad’s broomstick. That very night, I had a serious conversation with him.

“You’re applying to the Azure Dragon Academy not as a student, but as an instructor?”

“Yes, I’ve already told you that several times.”

“…Some of those students are already first-class martial artists. Do you really think that you’re strong enough to teach them?”

“Right now, probably not. However, everything will change a month from now. I’ll give you the surprise of your life, Dad.”

“What the fuck are you saying…”

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

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Dad and I had a huge argument, but in the end, he gave in.

As expected, he had a soft spot for his only son.

“Alright, I’ll let you go, but on one condition. You have to defeat me in a duel before you leave.”

That was one month ago.

And then a few days ago, I finally received the letter I was waiting for from Go Ju-Yeol and started making preparations to depart.

“To make this fair, I won’t use my qi.”

SHIING!

Dad drew his sword.

A real sword. Not one of those wooden swords or blunted blades that we used for training.

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His eyes also sharpened like his naked blade.

“Let’s see how much you’ve improved.”

Dad started straight at me as he shifted into the starting stance for his self-created sword technique, the Revolving Tempest Sword (回風劍法).

It was a more cautious, flawless stance than I had ever seen him perform.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I have no intention of losing!

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I drew my blade and moved into the same stance as Dad.

“Hoo…”

For the last few months, I had been carefully observing Dad’s swordsmanship every morning during his personal training time.

The Revolving Tempest Sword was undoubtedly a first-class martial art, combining both the techniques of the illusory sword and the freeform sword.

However, I always felt that something very important was missing from Dad’s swordsmanship.

“As a murim senior, mind giving me three free strikes first as a handicap?”

Dad smiled gently, wiggled the tip of his sword, and firmly replied, “No way in hell.”

He then instantly narrowed the distance between us using masterful footwork.

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I twisted my body sideways and held my sword out diagonally.

CLANG!

Metal struck metal. I immediately took two steps back to relieve the recoil on my wrist.

Because Dad had taken the initiative to attack, my rhythm had been thrown into chaos.

SWHOOSH! CLANG! BAM!

Dad’s sword came at me like a fierce tempest storm as he attempted to distract me using the countless afterimages of his lightning quick blade.

I focused my mind and concentrated on defense.

One moment, I saw the tip of Dad’s sword aiming for my shoulder, but the next moment, it had already changed direction. Was he going for my waist or my knees?

It turned out that neither of my guesses were right. Dad’s blade pierced my thigh.

“Uwaaa!”

“Amazing!”

The audience cheered at the display of top-notch swordsmanship.

I’m the only one here who feels like shit.

Right now, I was facing a master swordsman who stood at the border between first-class and peak level. Even if Dad didn’t use any of his internal energy, his sheer speed and strength were already sufficient to make things difficult for me.

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“It’s still not too late for you to give up! You should know that this is just the beginning!”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the liberty to answer him. It was taking every ounce of my concentration just to deal with his relentless onslaught.

At the rate things were going, just defending was all I could do, and even then, it seemed as if my sword would be knocked out of my hands at any moment.

Still, I had to persist. As long as I kept this fight going…

There! I see it!

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There is no such thing as a flawless martial art.

Moreover, I’d spent the last month carefully observing and analyzing Dad’s swordsmanship.

SWOOSH!

The sound of my blade whistling through the air was different from before.

I accurately aimed for the momentary gap that appeared whenever Dad switched between sword forms, forcing him to quickly retreat backward to avoid my thrust.

Surprised, Dad’s eyes widened as he looked at me, saying, “You…”

I could see the confusion in his eyes as to how I had successfully countered him.

I took the opportunity to stabilize my breathing and grinned at him, taunting, “This isn’t everything you’ve got, is it?”

“Hah.” Dad laughed at my provocation, as if the very notion that he had already given it his all was absurd.

However, the moment my real counterattack began, the smile immediately vanished from his face.

“This time, it’s my turn to attack.”

I stepped into the middle of Dad’s illusory sword storm. Although swords came flying at me from every direction, none of them so much as grazed me.

One by one, I fended off the real blades concealed within the illusion and delivered my own counters.

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“……!!” Dad’s eyes widened even further than before.

Now that I had broken his momentum, Dad started to panic. Naturally, the fierce tempest of blades lost some of its power.

“Argh!” Dad continued to struggle, trying to put more strength into his swings, but it was futile.

In fact, from a certain point of view, he had already lost. His Revolving Tempest Sword was a technique that relied heavily on flexibility and unpredictability, not brute force. The way he was swinging his sword now, he could never bring forth the true ability of his sword technique.

WHOOSH!

More and more lapses in his swordsmanship appeared, and I wasn’t stupid enough to miss out on my chances to gain the advantage.

“Dad, it’s not your fault that Mother died.”

“……!!”

Suddenly, Dad froze.

His sword whistled past my shoulder, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to close the distance between us.

That’s right, this is a psychological battle.

There were some facts I had to hammer into his stubborn head before I left home.

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“It’s not your fault that I was born weak and sickly.”

“You…!”

The Baek Mu-Heun I know is a martial arts genius with the talent to become one of the strongest peak-level masters, and perhaps even surpass the peak-level.

For some reason though, he got stuck at the boundary between first-class and peak-level.

At first, I had no idea why, but after a conversation with Go Ju-Yeol, I finally gained several clues about it, although Go Ju-Yeol had been quite drunk at that time.

“Huh, you’re asking me about your dad’s swordsmanship? He’s amazing, you know! When we were students in the Azure Dragon Academy, no one in our year was a match for him. He even managed to reach the semi-finals of the annual Dragon and Phoenix Tournament organized by the Heavenly Martial Academy every year he participated!”

“Hyung-nim, please stop talking about the past, it’s embarrassing…”

“Hey, do you remember the expressions on the faces of those Heavenly Martial Academy bastards back then? Hahaha, that was priceless! I even basked in your radiance when we went to town later and the pretty Hubei ladies called out ‘Handsome Prince, Handsome Prince’…”

“Hyung-niiiiiim!”

“Kuhahaha! Anyway, you were really cool and carefree back then.”

If what Go Ju-Yeol said was true, then Dad was once an easygoing, laid back person who did whatever the hell he pleased (damn I’m jealous…).

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He was what we call a “free spirit”.

However, the Dad I knew was nothing like that.

The current Baek Mu-Heun was a sad man who would often look at me with pity in his eyes and a loving father who would do anything for me even while complaining profusely about it.

He feels indebted to me because of my medical condition, and that guilt has taken root in his heart as an inner demon.

Early every morning, he would diligently practice his Revolving Tempest Sword, but even though his technique was near perfect, the sword that was supposed to flow freely through the air seemed rigid and awkward.

The core reason for that was me, Baek Su-Ryong.

“Dad, I am not a burden that you have to carry for the rest of your life.”

“What are you talking about? Of course you’re not a burden!”

SWISH! SWOOSH!

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The more flustered Dad became, the more mistakes he made and the more exaggerated his movements were. There was no more “technique” and “skill” left in his sword, he was just swinging randomly.

It was impossible for me to lose now.

“This is the end.”

TAP.

Before Dad knew it, my sword had stopped just short of piercing his heart.

“Dad, I’m going to leave today.”

“You…”

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“Let go of your guilt.”

“……”

The guilt Dad felt over being unable to cure me and my mom’s illnesses weighed heavily on his heart.

It took away his vitality and freedom.

It locked him up in a cage and clipped his wings.

I sincerely wished for this dried-up husk of a man to gain his life and freedom back.

You have the ability to reach far greater heights as a martial artist than you can imagine.

Dad tightened his grip on his sword.

No. Way.

If he doesn’t give up now, I’ll be the one in deep shit.

I might have won the duel, but that was only because I forced it to turn into a psychological battle.

Finally, Dad lowered his blade and sighed, saying, “Fine, I admit that I lost. You’re free to go.”

At that moment, he appeared older and more exhausted than he had ever been, but the expression on his face was a sprightly one.


Footnotes:

  1. Pan-fried pancakes (Pajeon): Savory, crispy, sometimes also flaky fried pancakes. Yum yum! Recipe here. 

  2. Black bamboo hat: Dear Author-nim, only people in ancient Korea wore black bamboo hats What country is this!? I thought it was China? 

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