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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!
“Yes, it’s been thirty years already.”
Now that Mae Geuk-Lyom mentioned it, I remembered Go Ju-Yeol saying something similar back at the Baek Academy.
“Not only was Baek the strongest student in our year, he also made it to the semi-finals of the Dragon and Phoenix Tournament at the Heavenly Martial Festival!”
Dad… I used to think you were just another delinquent, but you were more than that, huh?
“That was the heyday of the Azure Dragon Academy. We attracted talents from all corners of the world and trained numerous martial arts masters. We were also consistently top performers at the Heavenly Martial Festival.” Mae Geuk-Lyom beamed with pride as he recalled the glorious past.
However, his expression quickly turned somber. “…But that’s not the case anymore. Over the years, the academy’s results got worse and worse, and for the past decade, we’ve been ranked last at the Heavenly Martial Festival.”
“Is there a particular reason for the decline?”
“Well…” Mae Geuk-Lyom pondered for a moment, then widened his eyes as if he had just realized something. “Come to think of it, it all started after that son of a bitch ran off with my daughter.”
Mae Geuk-Lyom’s eyes turned bloodshot, and his pupils dilated wildly, seemingly without any external stimulus. “Ever since that fateful day, the Azure Dragon Academy has been cursed. The gods must have been angered by the inappropriate relationship and punished us for it…”
“Baek Mu-Heun…! It’s all your fault…!”
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Did he mistake me for Dad again? Damn it, I have to do something to calm him down, anything, even change my name… Wait, that’s it!
I said through gritted teeth, “Grandpa, I’m not Baek Mu-Heun! I’m Mae Yak-Bing’s son, Mae Su-Ryong! Please disperse the Sword Qi around your chopsticks!”
Why does it always end up like this?
After a moment, the barely recognizable Mae Geuk-Lyom took a deep breath and said, “Hoo… Anyway, my point is, the Azure Dragon Academy isn’t what it used to be. For the students and staff here, your promise was too good to be true.”
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The Heavenly Martial Festival was an annual event where students from the Five Great Academies gather to compete in martial arts. Originally, it aimed to foster camaraderie among the students and groom them into future protectors of the murim who would stand united against the unorthodox and demonic sects.
“However, at some point, the students forgot the original purpose of the event and started risking their lives for points and rankings.”
The Heavenly Martial Festival included multiple contests such as swordsmanship, bladesmanship, unarmed fighting, projectile weapons, movement arts, group battles, etc. The participants would gain points for doing well in each event, and that contributed to the academy’s overall score.
Out of all the events, the one-on-one duel known as the Dragon and Phoenix Tournament was the highlight of the Heavenly Martial Festival, with the highest stakes. It was a true battle to determine the strongest martial artist among all the students of the Five Great Academies. Every year, over a hundred students compete, but only those who reach the top eight are dubbed ‘dragons and phoenixes’.
“In the past decade, the Azure Dragon Academy hasn’t produced a single dragon or phoenix.”
“You don’t act like you’re aware of it.” Mae Geuk-Lyom, a living witness to the academy’s changes over the decades, stared straight at me. “What needs to change is the general deep-seated sense of inferiority and lack of self-confidence. Can you do it?”
“If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have made such a promise.”
“Hmph!” Mae Geuk-Lyom snorted at my response, but he didn’t seem offended. “Your blatant arrogance reminds me of…”
“No, your mom.”
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“……” Seriously, what the fuck?
“If you’re done eating, let’s get going.”
As we polished off our meal and pushed away from the table, I sensed curious glances darting our way. We hadn’t exactly been mumbling throughout our discussion, so it was safe to say anyone within earshot had probably eavesdropped on us.
With a sideways glance at Mae Geuk-Lyom’s retreating figure, I smirked in sudden realization. So this is why he took me to the cafeteria and sat right in the middle. What a shrewd man. He intended for our conversation to be overheard by the students all along.
I appreciated the unspoken gesture, but he didn’t look like he wanted to acknowledge it, so I played along.
“…Nobody here has the will to win. They’ll be extremely grateful to you even if you only help them defeat the White Tiger Academy,” Mae Geuk-Lyom said resignedly.
We were already standing at the cafeteria doors. I paused for a moment and said loudly enough for all to hear, “No, I intend to lead the Azure Dragon Academy to victory. I won’t settle for anything less.”
“You…” Mae Geuk-Lyom gave me an exasperated look.
I grinned at him. “So, who do I resemble more now?”
After leaving the cafeteria, we headed to Mae Geuk-Lyom’s residence, which was strategically situated right between the boys’ and girls’ dorms.
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“Have a seat,” he offered, gesturing toward a tea table.
Mae Geuk-Lyom’s room, much like the man himself, was unadorned and pragmatic. According to him, besides sleeping, he mainly used this room for meditation. His swordsmanship training was done in the backyard, which conveniently also served as an excellent vantage point to watch out for “kittens” climbing over the walls of the opposite sex’s dorms.
…Okay, this old man is starting to really freak me out.
“It’s school vacation right now, so most of the students have gone home. There’s not much going on,” he remarked, sitting down across from me and pouring a me a cup of tea that he’d just brewed himself.
The tea’s rich aroma tickled my nostrils. I was no tea expert, but it seemed that Mae Geuk-Lyom was quite the connoisseur.
“For the next month, I want you to familiarize yourself with the academy’s layout and get to know the other instructors.”
“Got it,” I nodded.
“And be on your best behavior. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that a scandal with a female student would be…” As his voice trailed off, Mae Geuk-Lyom released his killing intent.
I immediately broke into a cold sweat. “Please trust me, I have no intention of doing such a thing!”
“…Just this once, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. By the way, have you come up with any questions for me yet? You said you needed time to think about it earlier.”
Fortunately, I did have a pressing question in mind. “Grandpa, can you tell me about the Remedial Class?”
“The Remedial Class…” Mae Geuk-Lyom stroked his beard and pondered for a moment before sighing, “It’s a class made up of problem children who never listen to me.”
There exist kids who dare to defy Headmaster Mae Geuk-Lyom? How many lives do they have left?1
“Wow, really? Why have you tolerated them until now?”
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“…Are you making fun of me?”
“No sir, most definitely not.”
Mae Geuk-Lyom raised an eyebrow, then sighed and continued, “They’re considered problem children because they flunked all of their exams, but their grades are not my primary concern. They’re good kids who just need a little life guidance, and they’re not even the worst troublemakers in the school.”
“Well, Hyonwon Kang sometimes picks a fight or two… but at his age, boys will be boys.”
Apparently, the academy frowned upon drinking, smoking, and illicit relationships, but given its focus on martial arts, minor brawls that did not result in serious injury were nothing. Even Mae Geuk-Lyom was surprisingly lenient in this regard.
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“From the academy’s point of view, it’s a real shame. All of the Remedial Class students have talent, but lack motivation… Oh! I nearly forgot. You’re in charge of the Remedial Class this year, right?”
“Hmm. It won’t be easy to get those kids to cooperate… Anyway, there are three students in the Remedial Class:
- Geo Sang-Woong, a fourth year
- Hyonwon Kang, a third year
- Yeo Min, a second year.
“Geo Sang-Woong and Yeo Min have returned home for the vacation and won’t be back for at least a month. Hyonwon Kang is staying in the dormitory.”
“Do you know where all the students’ rooms are?”
“Not all of them… but I paid special attention to these kids because I’m quite concerned about them.”
Lies. I’m sure you know all the room assignments like the back of your hand.
“Can you tell me about them?”
“I don’t know much, but…”
For someone who claimed not to know much, he had quite a bit of information about the three students.
“…Based on what you’ve told me, they really are problematic.”
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Mae Geuk-Lyom face clouded over. “Quite a few instructors have tried to teach them, only to give up and lose faith in them. Namgoong Su didn’t assign you the Remedial Class for no reason.”
Haha, that just makes me all the more excited.
“When it comes to martial arts, it’s much better to have disobedient talented students than normal obedient kids. I can’t create talent, but I can make brats listen.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“Yes, but… I’ll need to meet the kids in person first, starting with the punk I’m already acquainted with. Grandpa, which room is Hyonwon Kang’s?”
Even though his arms were shaking and sweat was dripping down his forehead, Hyonwon Kang did one-finger push-ups over and over again.
His dorm room floor was moist from the sweat.
“Ninety-nine… just one more… Alright!”
Having completed a hundred push-ups, Hyonwon Kang switched arms and did another hundred. By the time he finished two hundred push-ups, he was spent.
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He sat on the floor, panting heavily. “Huff… huff…”
Steam wafted from his body as he wiped his sweat with a nearby towel. No one wanted to bunk with a hot-tempered troublemaker, so his dorm, originally meant for four students, had essentially become his private haven once the semester ended.
“Thanks to that bastard, I won’t be disturbed for a while, but… FUCK YOU, BAEK SU-RYONG!!”
Hyonwon Kang mentally replayed Baek Su-Ryong’s outer arts demonstration lecture.
“You have two minutes. Using only outer arts, force me to step out of this circle. If anyone succeeds, I’ll give all of you a hundred silver coins.”
From the moment they had crossed paths, he had taken an instant dislike to the pretty boy who always wore a wicked smirk on his face. As a result, he had assumed that the slender, weak-looking guy was a pushover and attacked him with the intention of teaching him a lesson…
“I just knew you’d be the first one to charge in!”
As if he could read his mind, Baek Su-Ryong had grinned annoyingly and slammed him to the ground without even giving him a chance to react.
The pain from the throw was excruciating, enough to blur his vision, but the physical agony was nothing compared to the frustration of the one-sided thrashing that followed. No matter how hard he’d tried, he couldn’t make Baek Su-Ryong budge an inch, even with the help of his eternal rival Peng Sa-Hyuk.
When he had caught his breath, Hyonwon Kang stood up, drew an imaginary circle on the floor of his room, and muttered to himself, “Was it… like this?”
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He clumsily attempted to mimic Baek Su-Ryong’s stance. Since childhood, he had been able to replicate most techniques after just a single glance.
“No, that’s not it.”
However, what he was doing now felt awkward and uncomfortable, no matter how much he adjusted his posture. Still, Hyonwon Kang wasn’t someone who gave up easily. With a level of concentration that would shock all of his previous instructors, he closed his eyes and imagined Baek Su-Ryong’s movements.
“That motherfucker… One day, I’ll beat him to a pulp and slam his face in the dirt.”
Slowly, carefully, he moved his body, attempting to recreate the way Baek Su-Ryong had evaded, blocked, and countered the students’ attacks.
After about a minute…
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“Why isn’t it working?” he shouted in frustration, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“Want me to tell you why?”
“Why… EEEEAAAACK, WHAT THE HELL?!!!”
Hyonwon Kang spun around. There, hanging upside down from the dorm window, was a smirking Baek Su-Ryong.
Fun Fact: I forgot to mention this before, but Mae Geuk-Lyom’s title Sword Addict = Geomchi, a term I think anyone who has read The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor will recognize immediately. It means “stupid for swords” or “addicted to swords” and is translated to “Sword Noob” in Moonlight Sculptor, but I think the word “noob” shouldn’t appear in a murim novel…
A reference to the kids being “kittens”, i.e. they have 9 lives. ↩
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