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

One month had passed. For some, it flew by in the blink of an eye; for others, it seemed painfully long. Time was fair to all, but what it brought to different people was anything but fair.

Gongson Su’s eyes lit up as he gazed at the imposing signboard of the Azure Dragon Academy (靑龍學館), its serpentine calligraphy seeming to dance before him. He clenched his fists, bubbling with excitement. “So this is the Azure Dragon Academy…!”

Beside him, Hyonwon Kang grumbled, “Please calm down. If anyone hears you, they’ll think you’ve already been accepted. You only came to apply for admission and already you’re making a big fuss about it.”

However, Gongson Su’s excitement remained undimmed. “Hohoho, they say that just applying is half the battle!”

For the past month, he had worked tirelessly. As proof of that, his martial arts uniform was now torn and tattered, and his hands badly callused. Still, standing before the academy gates, gratitude for his teacher’s treatment and harsh training surged within him.

“By the way, the line is really long, even though we left early,” Wiji Cheon noted.

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Like Gongson Su, he had changed too. Compared to a month ago when he was basically skin and bones, his physique was noticeably bulkier.

“Last year, there weren’t this many…” Hyonwon Kang added.

In contrast to his Wiji Cheon, his frame was now leaner than before. He had lost some muscle mass, but in exchange, he had grown stronger and more flexible.

“Hohoho, as expected of the murim’s Five Great Academies. There are so many eager youngsters!”

Is this old man unaware that the Azure Dragon Academy is the worst among the Five Great Academies, or does he simply not care? Hyonwon Kang pondered, but he refrained from voicing his thoughts.

Gongson Su’s excitement was palpable. He constantly looked around, eyes wide with wonder, like a little kid at a festival. People around him stared, but he didn’t care.

Seeing his embarrassed young companions, though, he said, “You guys, do you know what’s good about getting older? You get more thick-skinned!”

“Our skin is not that thick yet, please stop doing that…”


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“Hohoho!” Gongson Su chuckled and patted the young men’s backs. Then, gazing at his callused hands, he muttered, “…Time really flies. I can’t believe there are only three days left until the entrance exam.”

The city buzzed with entrance exam applicants from across the country. The Azure Dragon Academy entrance exam registration began today, with the exam itself in three days.

“Entrance exam applicants, please prepare your identification cards and letters of recommendation before entering the academy!” a gate guard announced.

To qualify for the Azure Dragon Academy entrance exam, one needed proof of good standing, such as a letter of recommendation from a martial arts academy, sect, clan, or a trusted guarantor.

“Hmph. They say it’s to prevent unorthodox sect disciples from joining, but… there aren’t even any prominent unorthodox sects these days, so the whole thing is just a pretentious farce for the rich and famous,” Hyonwon Kang commented cynically.

Wiji Cheon shuddered. He wasn’t a member of an unorthodox sect, but he was a descendant of the Eight Great Families of the Blood Cult.

Although the Blood Cult was destroyed before I was born… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit worried that my identity might be discovered.

He used to believe he’d have to conceal his identity forever, but Baek Su-Ryong and his grandfather, Wiji Yeol, both supported his attendance at the Azure Dragon Academy.

Last night, he even had a heart-to-heart talk with his grandfather, Wiji Yeol.

“Cheon, forget about the Blood Cult. From now on, live your life as an orthodox martial artist, got it?”

Similarly, Baek Su-Ryong had advised him.

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“You can’t hide for the rest of your life, so you have to blend in. If you enter the Azure Dragon Academy as the top freshman and graduate as the valedictorian, no one will suspect you.”

Wiji Cheon clutched the letter of recommendation in his hands tightly. Baek Su-Ryong had penned it with specially for him, leveraging his position as an Azure Dragon Academy instructor to bolster his application.

I owe Mr. Baek a debt that I will never be able to repay. I don’t think I can be top student with my skills, but… I have to do my best for the people who believe in me.

Wiji Cheon watched anxiously as the line dwindled. Despite the encouragement from others, he lacked the confidence to secure the top spot; his personal goal was simply to pass.

“Is Teacher inside? He left for work really early today…”

“Probably, but you won’t see him. The Discipline Committee teachers are pretty busy, especially since they will be invigilating the entrance exam. Anyway, relax, the exam’s pretty easy,” Hyonwon Kang replied, a hint of smugness in his expression. As a current student, he could have entered the academy right away, but after getting beaten up by Wiji Cheon every time they sparred, he relished this rare chance to act as a respectable elder brother and senior.

“If you have any questions, feel free to ask me,” he added confidently.

“Yes, Senior!”

“Hoho, it’s good to have you around.”

As the line slowly shortened, a commotion suddenly broke out within the Azure Dragon Academy. An instructor appeared from within and amplified his voice with inner arts, declaring, “Due to the large number of applicants, the Azure Dragon Academy grounds are now overcrowded! From now on, only applicants will be allowed to enter the academy. All family members and acquaintances, please wait outside!”

Instantly, complaints erupted.

“This is so sudden!”

“We came from so far away!”

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Parents, friends (who had come to spectate), and spectators (who were conveniently also cheering on their friends) lamented the abrupt change in policy, but the academy’s stance remained firm. Only applicants who had passed the document inspection were permitted beyond the gates.

Wiji Cheon’s group was affected as well.

“It seems that you’ll have to wait outside, Shadow.”

“…Sir, I can’t do that.” Shadow, who had remained silent until now, protested. Her duty was to accompany Gongson Su and protect him at all costs. “If I’m not by your side, I won’t be able to deal with any unexpected situations.”

“But those are the Azure Dragon Academy rules. Besides, what danger could I be in there?”

“Just in case…” Shadow hesitated, not daring to finish her sentence.

Gongson Su understood her worries. He chuckled, “You’re such a worrywart. If something was going to happen, it would have already happened. Moreover, my young friends here are no pushovers.” He reached out and clasped Wiji Cheon and Hyonwon Kang’s hands.

Hyonwon Kang grumbled about being called a “young friend” and not “senior”, but no one cared.

Those two are pretty strong, but… Still, Shadow remained unsettled. She sent a telepathic message to Gongson Su: [I can follow you with my stealth arts.]

Gongson Su gestured toward an academy staff member. His message was clear: “There are several martial masters inside. Are you sure you can fool them all?”

[I’ll follow you as carefully as I can, it should be fine as long as I don’t go too near the instructors’ offices…] Shadow insisted. Her expertise lay in stealth, disguise, and assassination, and her instructor considered her the best trainee he’d ever had.

Gongson Su interrupted her mid-sentence with a shake of his head. It was too risky. If Shadow, a master of stealth arts, were caught infiltrating the Azure Dragon Academy, both she and Gongson Su would have to reveal their true identities to clear their names.

And if Gongson Su’s identity was revealed… it would cause panic throughout the Azure Dragon Academy. Most importantly, it would eliminate any possibility of him taking the entrance exam normally.

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Gongson Su gazed at Shadow determinedly, silently conveying, “I want to pass the exam purely on my own merits, without any bias or trouble!”

“……” Shadow paused, deep in thought. Since Gongson Su began training at White Dragon Manor, his transformation had been remarkable. His once frail body now brimmed with vitality, and he was no longer reliant on daily medication.

The most notable change, however, was his newfound cheerfulness. Despite grappling with muscle soreness daily, Gongson Su always sported a satisfied smile after training.

“Hohoho, my days have never been more fulfilling,” he had confided to her.

Shadow was genuinely happy for him, yet her duty was to protect him at any cost. Devoted to obeying orders, she needed to find a solution.

After a moment of contemplation, she devised a plan.

[If I get caught, I’ll keep quiet about you until the end. I’ve been trained to resist torture, so don’t worry. I’ll even bite my own tongue if necessary…]

Her telepathy trailed off as Gongson Su’s previously bright expression twisted into a grim visage. It was a level of anger she had never seen in him.

“Are you trying to make me angry?” he said aloud.

His tone caught Shadow off guard. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Gongson Su marched toward Shadow, raising his hand. Anticipating a slap, Shadow braced herself.

But instead of striking her, Gongson Su grasped her shoulders, turning her to face him. “Shadow, I don’t know what you think of me, but I see you as a daughter.”


“How do you think it makes me feel to hear such words from you?”

“I’m sorry…” Shadow was at a loss for words or expressions. She hadn’t been trained for this.

After a sigh, Gongson Su patted her shoulder and said, “Shadow, if you feel uncomfortable, I’ll give you an order. Take the day off today.”

“What…?” Panic flickered in Shadow’s widened eyes.

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Gongson Su chuckled. “Go eat anything you want, buy some pretty clothes and accessories, and go tour any places you’ve been wanting to visit.”


“Again, that’s an order. If you disobey me, you’re fired.”

“……” Under Gongson Su’s unwavering gaze, Shadow couldn’t hide her bewilderment.

A day off? It could have been taken as a joke, but Gongson Su’s serious demeanor left her no choice but to comply.


“We’ll register for the exam and return by evening, so enjoy your day off to your heart’s content.”


“Go now.”

With her back to Gongson Su, Shadow hesitated, unsure where to go, before eventually making her way toward the marketplace.


“…By the way, what did you say to Shadow-noona earlier?” Hyonwon Kang feigned disinterest, but his lingering glance at Shadow betrayed his curiosity.

“You heard me,” Gongson Su replied, “I gave Shadow a day off and asked her to go enjoy herself.”

“She doesn’t seem happy about getting a day off though… When she left, she had a face like an abandoned puppy…”

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“Senior, you don’t need to worry about her,” Gongson Su said firmly, choosing not to elaborate any further. He wasn’t privy to all aspects of Shadow’s life, and discussing what he didn’t fully understand would be presumptuous and impolite.

“Tsk…” Hyonwon Kang grumbled. As curious as he was, it would be too presumptuous and impolite of him to question Gongson Su any more than this.

Instead, he said, “Isn’t that Noona really weird? At her age, she should be looking for a relationship, but she’s working as an old man’s bodyguard…”

“…Senior Won-Kang, are you perhaps interested in Shadow?”


“Thank goodness. She’s like a daughter to me.”

“…Wait. What’s that sigh of relief supposed to mean?”


“No, since when did I say that I’m interested in her? Damn old man…”


“I said I’m not interested! Hey, Wiji Cheon, why are you smiling so slyly too!”

“Senior, so that’s your kind of girl…”

Just as Hyonwon Kang was about to retort to their teasing, the queue ahead vanished, and the guard at the main gate called out, “Next applicant, please enter!”

The trio shuffled forward, sorting through their papers.

“……” Unbeknownst to them, someone was observing them from afar.

Translator’s Note: Did you get the “thick-skinned” pun? I tried to translate it while keeping as close to the original as possible. The original line was “The skin on your face grows thicker,” which implies that he’s more resistant to “losing face”.

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