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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
“Do you have any idea how nervous I was back there? Because of you, Hyung-nim, I… MMMMPH!”
“You’re hurting my ears. Just shut up and eat,” I said, stuffing a large dumpling into Ak Yeon-Ho’s mouth.
Myeong Il-Oh sipped his wine and giggled, “Don’t blame him. If Yeon-Ho hadn’t asked the examiners to delay your turn, we’d be throwing a consolation party for you right now.”
“Nom… Zat’s wight, you sood sank me!” Ak Yeon-Ho complained even as he chewed on the dumpling, then shot me what he thought was a fierce look.
Unfortunately, with his pretty boy face, he looked cute rather than scary.
I smirked and refilled his cup, saying, “Isn’t that why I’m treating you to drinks now?”
After getting back from the demonstration lecture, the three of us gathered in my room and ordered room service to celebrate.
“Anyway, what were you doing that made you so late?” Myeong Il-Oh asked.
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Recalling the grueling past few days, I let out a long sigh. “Don’t remind me. I went to meet some friends…”
My plan to cure Wiji Cheon’s Qi Deviation and come to Nanchang with Wiji Yeol and Wiji Cheon was good in itself. However, they were both wanted criminals by the Murim Alliance, and there was the possibility of us being tracked by the black-cloaked man who had given Wiji Cheon the fake Unlimited Sword, so we had no choice but to avoid the main road and go on a long hike across the mountains. If that wasn’t bad enough, even when we finally arrived in Nanchang and I summoned Cheong Cheon from outside the city with a smoke signal, making fake identities for the Wiji Clan duo and obtaining passes to enter the city took much longer than I had expected.
Well, I couldn’t tell Ak Yeon-Ho and Myeong Il-Oh the whole story, so I simply complained about going to help an acquaintance and ending up having to endure a terrible ordeal.
“Thanks to them… I was forced to practice my movement arts to death on the way here,” I sighed again, shaking my head.
Myeong Il-Oh smiled wryly and looked at Ak Yeon-Ho. “Yeon-Ho here thought that you were busy scouting out possible locations for the White Dragon Academy.”
“White Dragon Academy?”
“Didn’t you mention that if you failed the exam, you would build the White Dragon Academy across the road from the Azure Dragon Academy and surpass them within ten years? Man, you should have seen the look on the Headmaster’s face when Yeon-Ho told him about that…”
“Ahem! Hey, would you mind not talking about someone else’s embarrassing history? That’s already in the past!” Ak Yeon-Ho interrupted.
I refilled his wine cup again as thanks and said, “Aww shucks. It’s my treat today, so drink to your heart’s content.”
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“Heehee, I won’t say no to such a generous offer. Here, you drink too, Hyung-nim.”
Suddenly, Myeong Il-Oh asked worriedly, “By the way, you two haven’t forgotten about the duel tomorrow, have you?”
The practical exams for new Azure Dragon Academy instructors consisted of two parts, and the first was the demonstration lecture they had finished earlier. The second part of the exam was a duel with one of the existing instructors that was scheduled to take place the next day.
It wasn’t mandatory to win the duel, but winning definitely gave an applicant a huge advantage. Unfortunately, since the duel pairings were traditionally decided by the Principal, they would not know the identities of their opponents until right before the exam, preventing the applicants from investigating and analyzing their weaknesses.
The Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva, Noh Gun-Sang… Even back when the Blood Cult was active, he was already known as one of the top hundred martial artists in the orthodox murim and was renowned for killing countless masters of the Cult.
Although we were enemies during that turbulent time, for some reason, he’s being surprisingly friendly to me now. Does he want something from me? Even though I’m currently a total nobody with nothing of value?
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“Hmmm… Well, I am indeed handsome and competent…”
“Wow, seriously Hyung-nim? You’re praising yourself out loud?” Myeong Il-Oh clicked his tongue in mock amazement.
I refilled his wine cup and confidently said, “It’s just a duel. What’s the big deal?”
“That’s right, it’s just a duel! It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, all I have to do is beat them to a pulp!” Ak Yeon-Ho blurted.
Having reached the three-star level of the Heaven Defying Divine Art, I wasn’t too worried about the duel, and Ak Yeon-Ho was also a peak-level master in his own right.
“It’s good that you’re both so relaxed…” Myeong Il-Oh, whose skills were roughly equal to the current Azure Dragon Academy instructors, sighed, feeling a bit lonely.
“You have only yourself to blame for not working harder on your martial arts,” I teased.
Ak Yeon-Ho giggled, “Yup, heeheehee… Anyway, Hyung-nim, why did you have to go and be so cool back there?!”
…Fuck, I forgot how easily this guy gets drunk.
Ak Yeon-Ho snuggled up next to me, smirking deviously. “Did you see the looks on the girls’ faces when you cut the Blade Wind in half? They were ecstatic. You must have enjoyed listening to all their swooning too, right?”
“…Get off me before I cut you in half as well.” I pushed Ak Yeon-Ho away in disgust and stood up.
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He floundered for a bit, fell on his butt, then looked at me with teary eyes. “Where are you going, Hyung-nim?”
“I’m going to the toilet. Are you going to follow me there?”
Ak Yeon-Ho blushed. “Boo, what are you saying, so embarrassing… Hurry up, okay? I can’t wait anymore!”
“You, do you know what you’re saying?”
This is just a drunk dude babbling nonsense, right? Right.
I sighed and turned to Myeong Il-Oh, “Il-oh, hold him down so he doesn’t follow me.”
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“…I’ll try, but I’m no good at martial arts, so it might be difficult.”
Shit, this guy is surprisingly petty, too.
I decided to ignore them and went to the toilet to relieve myself, but on my way back, I suddenly sensed a familiar qi behind me. I slowly turned around…
Even during my demonstration lecture, I was absolutely confident, but right now, I couldn’t help but shiver nervously as I stuttered, “…G-Grandpa?”
“You’ve gotten careless. Do you think you’ve already passed?” An old man with an icy gaze as cold as the northern wind glared at me.
All of my drunkenness disappeared in an instant.
“Damn bastard, your love of alcohol reminds me of your father…” Mae Geuk-Lyom’s eyebrows and forearm muscles twitched.
I immediately erased all hints of arrogance and gave my best impression of a humble and polite grandson. “Haha, I was just having a drink to relieve myself of the day’s fatigue… By the way, what brings you here, Grandpa…?”
“Why, have I come to a place I shouldn’t?”
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“No, of course not…”
“Your grandfather came all the way here to visit you, but you haven’t even offered me a seat.”
“Hey, waiter! Bring me a pot of tea! Grandpa, this spot has the nicest view of the outside scenery, please take a seat.” I said.
While waiting for the waiter to arrive, I wiped the table with my sleeve to show my sincerity.
Mae Geuk-Lyom sat down with a sour look on his face and stared hard at me for some time before finally asking, “Are you hurt anywhere?”
“That technique you used to cut the Blade Wind earlier didn’t look like something your body can handle.”
“……” As expected of a master swordsman, Mae Geuk-Lyom instinctively knew that the Sword Unification I used earlier was quite taxing on my body. Fortunately, I had been practicing the Eighteen Strikes of the Viridian Forest diligently, so although my muscles were aching, I wasn’t actually injured.
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If I was, I wouldn’t be drinking right now.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay.”
“Don’t get overconfident just because you’re young,” Mae Geuk-Lyom scolded, before letting out a small sigh. “…You know, your mother’s health wasn’t good. Even after taking her to all the best physicians in the gangho, I couldn’t find a way to cure her sickness. When I first saw you, you looked a bit frail, and I suspected that you might have inherited her illness…”
Even though Mae Geuk-Lyom was trying his best to appear nonchalant, I could see that there was a deep sense of regret hidden in his eyes.
“…Anyway, take this. It will come in handy someday.” Mae Geuk-Lyom pulled something out of his chest pocket and handed it to me.
It was a pill, neatly wrapped in paper. It emitted a faint fragrance, and one glance was all it took for me to realize how precious this medicine was to him.
I felt a pang of conscience and tried to return the pill to him, “As you can see, I’m really healthy, so…”
“If someone your senior gives you a present, just shut up and accept it.”
“Okay then… Thank you.” I accepted his gift. Continuing to refuse him would be impolite of me.
Having achieved his objective, Mae Geuk-Lyom stood up. “Now that that’s done, I’m leaving.”
Wait, you haven’t even touched your tea yet!?
“Already? Why don’t you have something to eat…”
“I have a lot of work to do, and you should drink in moderation.”
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“Fine, I’ll stop drinking today.”
“……” Mae Geuk-Lyom stared at me for a moment, then added, “Don’t hate the student who broke the rules of your game. I’ve already scolded him enough. He just got caught in the moment and…”
I smirked and replied, “Don’t worry, I’m not so petty that I would bully a student.”
Although I’m definitely petty enough to get revenge on the instigator.
Unaware of my true thoughts, Mae Geuk-Lyom nodded in approval. “Very well.”
“I’ll walk you back to the academy…”
“No need. Don’t waste your time.” Mae Geuk-Lyom refused my offer with a stern glare.
I bowed to send him off, saying, “See you tomorrow, Grandpa.”
“……” Without a word, he turned around and strode out of the inn.
I watched him go, then looked at the pill he’d given me. “It doesn’t look like the type that needs to be eaten right away…”
“Huh, I didn’t realize you two were related,” someone suddenly said.
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I spun around, startled. Someone came this close to me without alerting me? How… Oh, it’s him.
The Principal of the Azure Dragon Academy, the “Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva” Noh Gun-Sang stood behind me, smiling like a gentle, kindly saint.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. The atmosphere seemed serious, and I didn’t want to interrupt… Hohoho,” the man who was once called the Devil by the unorthodox sects laughed bashfully.
I sat down across from Noh Gun-Sang, my vision of him only slightly obscured by the steaming tea. He picked up his teacup, slowly savored the aroma, and took a sip.
“Mmm, this is delicious. I wonder if tea is something that tastes better as one ages? I seem to prefer it more and more,” he lamented, a slight frown on his face.
“…Should I order wine instead?”
“Heehee, it’s okay. I know it’s quite a chore for a youngster like you to drink with an old man like me.”
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“Who taught you martial arts?” Noh Gun-Sang suddenly asked, bringing an end to the small talk.
I narrowed my eyes. Is he onto something? Well, even if he is, I have nothing to lose. I haven’t used any Blood Cult martial arts in front of him or done anything suspicious.
I answered confidently, “My father.”
“Was your father once a student at the Azure Dragon Academy?”
“Yes. I heard that he was the academy’s worst delinquent around thirty years ago.”
“Cough! Cough!” Noh Gun-Sang choked on his tea.
Perhaps my answer was too blunt for him.
After some time, he smiled and continued asking, “Why did you wait so long to reveal yourself to the gangho?”
It was a question that could be interpreted in several ways, but I suppose what he wanted to know was: If you’re that strong, why haven’t you made a name for yourself in the murim yet?
It was a compliment from one of the top hundred martial artists, so I replied with a grateful smile, “When I was younger, I was too weak and sickly to fight, and when I grew older, I realized that risking my life just to see who was stronger is meaningless.”
“Hohoho…” Noh Gun-Sang laughed heartily. “Did you know? I’m actually someone who enjoys peace and boredom.”
“Well, everyone has their likes and dislikes. I much prefer teaching over fighting, and if I can make a living from it, then all the better.”
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“In short, you simply don’t want to get involved in…the gangho’s complicated web of intrigue, right?”
“Something like that.”
Noh Gun-Sang pondered my words deeply for a while, then said, “You know, you aren’t the first person like that who has applied to the academy as an instructor. Some of them were afraid to take a human life, and some were afraid to lose their own. I do not condemn them or look down on them.”
“I appreciate your understanding…”
“But you are not like them.” Suddenly, Noh Gun-Sang’s gaze sharpened to the point where it could piece a person’s heart. “You don’t strike me as someone who is afraid of shedding blood, rather…”
“Somehow, I get the feeling that you’re someone who has shed so much blood that you’re tired of it. Hohoho.” Noh Gun-Sang smiled and looked straight at me.
I didn’t avert my gaze. It wasn’t like he could figure anything out just staring at me.
Our eyes met, and there was a moment of silence.
After sizing me up to his satisfaction, Noh Gun-Sang looked away. He took another sip of his tea and said, “…That’s all I wanted to ask you. Is there anything you want to ask me?”
I immediately answered, “Tomorrow, I want you to let me fight Namgoong Su.”
Noh Gun-Sang broke into laughter as if he already knew what I would say.
Translator’s Note: Just recovered from the flu, ugh…and still coughing.
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