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


After the conclusion of our duel, I sat face-to-face with Dad. Everyone else had gone home, leaving only the two of us in the spacious, empty Baek Academy.

“…You know, I wasn’t going to let you leave at all,” Dad said, staring down at the teacup in front of him with folded arms.

“I know very well what kind of situation you would face if you go there, so I planned to get in your way even if I had to personally break your arms and legs,” he continued.

“And if I kept insisting on leaving?”

“…I’d pretend that I lost and stalk you secretly.”

Well, it wasn’t like I didn’t anticipate this little scheme of his when I spotted him sneakily packing his luggage several days ago.

As expected, he’s weak to his son.

I coolly sipped some tea and said, “Now that I’ve won the duel though, you can’t stop me or stalk me anymore.”

“…Eh, I can’t?”

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“Absolutely not.” I shook my head firmly. Although I was extremely grateful to him, from now on, it was better for both me and him to stay apart for a while.

“By the time I come back, I’ll be rich and famous. Until then, please just make sure the Baek Academy doesn’t go bankrupt and close down.”

“Why you little punk…” Dad said, making a puppy-dog face that was totally unbecoming of his age. If any of the widows in town could see him now, they would have gone crazy and agreed to anything he asked for, but that wasn’t going to work on me. Obviously.

“If you go to the Azure Dragon Academy…” Dad hesitated for a moment, then sighed and continued, “…you’ll probably run into your maternal grandfather.”

“What?”

My maternal grandfather would be my mother’s father.

What the hell? I’ve never heard anything about this before!

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Come to think of it, during the whole time I was here, I never heard much about my mom’s side of the family.

Dad hesitated again for a while, then suddenly added, “Also…that man is the principal of the Azure Dragon Academy.”

“That man? Who?”

“Your maternal grandfather.”

“…No no no, why are you only telling me this now?” I blabbed, utterly bewildered.

Dad deliberately avoided my gaze and looked away, muttering, “Didn’t I just tell you? I wasn’t planning on letting you leave, so… Anyway, I never thought that you’d be able to beat me, and honestly, if I had been shameless and used my qi, I would have won for sure…”

“Enough of the excuses. Why didn’t you tell me earlier that you had connections to the Academy? I could have gotten in by the back door instead, or had an easier entrance exam…”

As I talked excitedly, I suddenly noticed the bleak expression on Dad’s face.

Wait a second, it can’t be…right?

“…Do you not get along with my maternal grandfather?”

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“He didn’t like me, so Yak-Bing broke off her relationship with him.”

Mae Yak-Bing. That was my mother’s name.

I anxiously asked, “When did this happen?”

“…Err, when Yak-Bing and I got married?”

“Ah, so it happened roughly thirty years ago. It’s been quite a long time, so the two of you must basically be strangers by now, right?”

Dad pretended not to hear me grumbling.

“Look, I don’t know what Father-in-law will think of you. He might like you because of your resemblance to Yak-Bing, or…”

“Or?”

“…He might try to kill you because you look like me.”

“……”

Dad frowned and mumbled to himself, “Hmm, he’s super old and about to die soon, but should I just murder him anyway?”

I put a hand on my painfully throbbing head and sighed.

“Anyway, be careful. If you meet a man named Mae Geuk-Nyom (梅極廉), the first thing you should do is run away as fast as you can, at least a hundred yards away…”

“Okay, stop right there. I think I’ve heard enough.”

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Worrying about all this stuff beforehand was meaningless. In the end, my best option was to go meet the old man in person and try my luck.

…At worst, I’d just have to kill him, that’s all.

“Should I go with you after all? If you’re with me, he’ll definitely attack me first, giving you an opportunity to escape…”

“Just how badly does your father-in-law hate you?!”

I sighed deeply and stood up from my seat. The longer I spent saying goodbye, the harder it would be to actually leave.

Now was a good time. If I stayed here any longer, the sun would set.

“Then, Dad, I’m off. Please take good care of yourself until my glorious return.” I bowed deeply in respect and gratitude.

“You know you don’t have to bow down to me… Sigh, fine, hurry up and go.”

I straightened my back and turned around.

“……”

As I secured the bag that was falling off my shoulder, I looked around and engraved the familiar sights of the Baek Academy into my mind.

Over the last few months, before I knew it, I had grown attached to the worn-down training ground, the old buildings, the weather-beaten entrance signboard, and the toys the sniveling brats left behind in a corner of the yard.

Although I lived in a much grander place back when I was an instructor in the Blood Cult, somehow I liked this simple, humble place a lot better.

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Maybe it was because this was the first time I ever had a place I could call ‘home’.

I’ll definitely come back here.

It might take a few years, or even longer, but I was determined to one day return to this place.

This was home, after all.

“Remember to send me a letter once a month! If you fail to contact me, I will go looking for you, you little punk!”

“Yes, yes,” I replied to Dad’s nagging without turning around.

Then, I walked past the main gates of the Baek Academy and took my first step toward the Azure Dragon Academy.

sep

“……”

Baek Mu-Heun stood motionless as he watched as his son’s figure get smaller and smaller, until the young man finally disappeared into the distance.

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“…What a heartless kid. He didn’t look back even once.”

Ever since his son had almost died in an accident, Baek Su-Ryong had changed so much that it was as if he had become a totally different person, but Baek Mu-Heun still couldn’t help but worry about his only child.

That child has always dreamed of entering the gangho, but he knows nothing about its mercilessness.

“You need to always remain vigilant around women…”

For the most part, Baek Mu-Heun felt that his son looked a lot like him, but that high nose bridge and long eyelashes were exactly the same as his late wife’s.

Because of that face, you’ll invite trouble in the Azure Dragon Academy whether you want to or not.

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Trust me, I’ve been through it.

Baek Mu-Heun recalled the first time he met his wife in the Azure Dragon Academy.

“So you’re the Jade Prince? Hmm… You don’t seem all that handsome to me.”

“Are you drunk? Or does insulting other people’s facial features make you happy?”

“Hey, how about treating me to a drink? In celebration of our first meeting.”

“What the hell are you saying…!?”

…Yeah, that didn’t end very well, did it?

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She was a girl who looked so weak that it seemed as if she would break at a single touch, and yet, she had boldly stared at him and demanded he treat her to a drink.

Before he knew it, he had fallen head over heels for that fragile-looking girl.

“Yak-Bing, will you marry me? I swear to abandon my frivolous ways and remain loyal to you forever!”

“My body is very weak, and I might not live much longer. Even then, would you still marry me?”

“Yes! I don’t care about something trivial like that!”

“Isn’t that because you can just remarry someone else after I die?”

“W-What? No! I’m not going to remarry! Absolutely not!”

Beside a shimmering lake lit up by the pale moonlight, a young man and woman decided to tie the knot.

However, the young man faced opposition from the father-in-law who loved his daughter more than anything else in the world.

“You fucking playboy! How dare you lay your dirty hands on my daughter?”

“Please calm down, Father-in-law…”

“Who the hell is your father-in-law!? I’m going to bash in your skull in one strike!”

“Dad, please stop that! If you kill this man, I will commit suicide and die together with him!”

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“Y-Y-You! How could you!”

As he remembered the look on his father-in-law’s face back then, Baek Mu-Heun couldn’t help but shudder.

“…I still can’t believe I survived that.”

Eventually, his wife severed her relationship with her father and eloped with him, fleeing the Azure Dragon Academy like they were fugitives on the run.

“Yak-Bing! I will definitely make you happy! I’ll also find a way to cure your illness!”

“Don’t be silly. You know, I’ve always dreamed of freely drifting around the gangho1 together with the man I love.”

And so Baek Mu-Heun randomly drifted around the gangho with his beloved woman. It was an arduous journey, but it was also the most blissful time of his life.

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A few years later, the two lovebirds had a child.

“UWAAAAAAAH!”

“Yak-Bing! Yak-Bing! Get a hold of yourself!”

“…Is it a boy? Or a girl?”

“It’s a boy! A boy who looks just like you!”

“Yak-Bing, did you know? That baby has now grown so big.”

Hours had already passed since Baek Su-Ryong had vanished into the distance, but Baek Mu-Heun still looked in the direction in which his son had left.

“I was going to take care of him for the rest of my life…but he said that he didn’t need me anymore. Then, he just up and left!”

Suddenly, Baek Mu-Heun thought he heard his wife’s voice from a very far-off place.

“He looks a lot like you, so he’s definitely going to end up making a lot of girls cry.”2

“Haha, I’m sure he will,” Baek Mu-Heun laughed.

However, the next moment, his expression hardened.

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“…Hey, should I go to where you are now?”

His son was the last gift his wife had left for him. To his delight, not only did the boy look a lot like her, his boldness and tendency to stir up trouble was just like her…

If it would cure that stupid disease, he’d be willing to donate his flesh and blood, or even sacrifice his life.

“I know! I’ll secretly stalk him and watch him from afar…”

“Stop that. What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You lost the duel.”

At his wife’s chiding, Baek Mu-Heun smiled awkwardly and laughed, “Oh, haha. That’s right, I lost.”

Yak-Bing was right.

Was the loser of the duel going to protect the winner?

Well, in his defense, he hadn’t used his qi at all during the battle.

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Even so, a loss was a loss.

“I still can’t believe I actually lost to that punk. Ha, haha… Hahaha.”

What’s wrong with me? I should be laughing happily, and yet I feel like crying.

Baek Mu-Heun’s laughter slowly turned into sobs. He tried his best to hold it in, but he couldn’t stop the tears from flowing down his face.

“Yak-Bing, that punk…told me to wait here until he returned,” he muttered to himself, clenching his teeth to prevent his tears from falling.

“He also said that it wasn’t my fault. That your death, and the fact that he was born weak, none of it was my fault.”

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“All these years, did you blame yourself for everything?”

“Of course I did. If you hadn’t met me, you wouldn’t have died so soon. And that child…”

Baek Mu-Heun couldn’t bring himself to finish that sentence, so his wife did it for him.

“…Wouldn’t have been born? Is that what you really think? Huh?”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. That’s not what I meant.”

“I’m truly happy to have met you. To me, there’s no meaning in living a few more years if it meant that I would be sad and lonely.”

…Yak-Bing is dead. This voice in my head is just a hallucination. I don’t know, and I’ll never know if that was what she truly thought.

“The same goes for my son. I’m happy to have given birth to him. Also, I heard what you said just now, and I’m glad that he’s all grown-up.”

It’s just a hallucination, but I still feel somewhat comforted.

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“That’s right… When did that little boy grow so big?”

“It’s time we let him out of the nest, and watch him take flight.”

“Ugh…uuu…”

The dam holding back Baek Mu-Heun’s tears broke, and he began to weep like a little child.

For the longest time, he simply sat there, crying his heart out.

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“Phew…”

When his tears had finally run dry and his turbulent emotions had calmed down, Baek Mu-Heun felt like a load had been lifted off his heart.

“So, what are you going to do now? Since there’s no son around to snub you anymore, are you going to remarry?”

Recalling his wife’s coy voice, Baek Mu-Heun couldn’t help but grin.

“What do you mean, remarry? I just want to finish mastering the martial arts that I couldn’t do before.”

Under the red-orange glow of the setting sun, Baek Mu-Heun stood up and gently raised his sword.

“Hoo…”

Every day for the last three decades, he had diligently practiced his Revolving Tempest Sword without fail.

However, something about his blade had changed.

As he moved, the dust on the training ground rose like a misty fog, and the dried fallen leaves spiraled into the sky as if lifted by a gentle breeze.

His sword had broken free of its chains.

How long had it been since the last time he felt like this?

When he had finished performing all the forms of his sword technique, Baek Mu-Heun froze in place.

“Congratulations.”

“…Thank you,” Baek Mu-Heun said, smiling faintly.

Although he didn’t notice it, the qi around his blade now shone pure and clear.


Footnotes:

  1. Drifting around the gangho: Gangho literally means “rivers and lakes”, and “drifting” here actually refers to “sailing”, so what Yak-Bing says is “I want to freely sail across the rivers and lakes”. I tried to keep the wordplay, but it’s hard. 

  2. I’ll be using bold quotes like this for the dead mother’s speech. 

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