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


Shit… For some reason, I’m getting a bad feeling about this. Cho Mak-Saeng broke into a cold sweat, feeling so restless that even the pain in his stomach was forgotten.

At first, everything had gone according to plan. He’d led the old man and the boy named Wiji Cheon to the training hall, gathered a crowd of onlookers, and persuaded the eager old man to accept a duel. All that remained was to embarrass the old man in front of the crowd.

“Old man, let’s play it safe and duel with wooden swords. It would be bad if you got injured before the entrance exam.”

“Hoho, I agree. Safety first.”

Cho Mak-Saeng sneered. Does this geezer not know that even wooden swords can break bones? But that’s not enough. Should I spice things up further?

“In deference to your seniority, how about I concede the first three strikes?”

“Hoho, I accept,” Gongson Su replied, raising his sword so lethargically that he nearly lulled the audience to sleep.

Though Cho Mak-Saeng remained wary, his confidence surged. I could block this blindfolded, he thought, lazily raising his sword.

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However, Gongson Su’s sword unexpectedly accelerated partway through his swing.

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CLACK!

Caught off guard, Cho Mak-Saeng barely managed to block. Normally, he wouldn’t have been surprised by an attack at that speed, but the change in tempo threw him off.

Agitated, he instinctively retaliated.

“Oh my!” Gongson Su chuckled, dodging with ease. “I thought you were going to give me three free strikes, but it seems like deceit is also part of martial arts… Thank you, I have learned a very valuable lesson.”

“No…” Realizing his folly, Cho Mak-Saeng’s face flushed. He glanced at the peanut gallery, only to see the cold, judging eyes of his tutoring classmates, the Azure Dragon Academy seniors, and even the instructors.

Fuck! I can’t let myself be dishonored like this!

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He immediately lowered his head and apologized, “…I’m sorry, that was my mistake. As compensation, you may have the two remaining… No, you can have another three free strikes.”

“Hmm, I wonder if I can trust you this time…” Gongson Su mumbled, eyeing Cho Mak-Saeng suspiciously.

Sly old man! Cursing under his breath, Cho Mak-Saeng strived to maintain his composure as he reaffirmed, “I swear it on my honor.”

“I see. Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt,” Gongson Su conceded.

The duel resumed. In a repeat of the last time, Gongson Su approached Cho Mak-Saeng slowly and cautiously.

Unlike before, Cho Mak-Saeng concentrated on blocking the incoming blows, but unfortunately, Gongson Su’s tactics exceeded his wildest imagination. While Cho Mak-Saeng’s eyes were focused on Gongson Su’s sword, the old man instead shortened the distance and punched him in the stomach.

POW!

“Ugh!” Cho Mak-Saeng groaned, stumbling backwards from the impact of being struck in the same place twice.

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Gongson Su immediately apologized, “Oops! I’m sorry, it seems that I overestimated your defenses… Can you continue?”

“Keuk… Yes,” Cho Mak-Saeng replied, scrambling to regain his balance.

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Gongson Su, however, stood still as if he had no intention of continuing with the duel. “Hmm, are you feeling unwell today? If so, how about we call it a draw?” he suggested worriedly.

“A draw…?” Cho Mak-Saeng’s eyes flashed with unbridled fury. Everything about Gongson Su, from his demeanor to his tone to his ‘concern’, irked him. As if that wasn’t enough, his fellow students Jin Jin and Namgoong Seok were looking at him with contempt and indifference, respectively.

He spat on the ground, saying, “Don’t talk to me like you’ve already won, old man. I haven’t even gotten started yet.”

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“Hoho, I was just worried about you…”

“Just shut up and fight!” Cho Mak-Saeng shouted. No more games. I’ll repay you tenfold, starting with shattering every bone in your decrepit body!

Cho Mak-Saeng charged at Gongson Su, determined to strike back with a vengeance. Then, with a thunderous crack, he rent the air with his wooden sword.

Some of the spectators frowned.

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“Hey, isn’t that a killing technique?”

“Shouldn’t someone intervene?”

Before anyone could step in, however, Gongson Su responded to the onslaught with poise even as he mumbled to himself, “Hoho, I was skeptical, but it looks like Mr. Baek was right after all.”

He recalled a conversation he’d had with Baek Su-Ryong about his strengths and weaknesses some time ago.

“Student Gongson Su, what do you think your strengths are?”

“I’m quite muscular for my age? Or maybe, I’m actually a genius?”

Baek Su-Ryong rolled his eyes. “Your first strength is your nerves of steel. Perhaps because you’ve been through so much, you never close your eyes or look away in the face of danger.”

WHIZ!

Gongson Su’s eyes widened in shock as Baek Su-Ryong’s sudden attack narrowly missed him.

“You weren’t intimidated just now, were you?” Baek Su-Ryong asked.

“So what? Even if I could see it, I couldn’t react in time.”

“That’s only because the gap between us is like a bottomless chasm.”

“A bottomless… chasm? I see…”

“Anyway, your second strength is your outward appearance. You’re older than the other applicants, you started learning martial arts late, and you don’t look very fit.”

“Shadow, is he insulting me?”

“Should I beat him up, Elder?”

“…How about the two of you let me finish talking first before you make any rash judgments? What I mean is that your looks are deceptive, so the little kids you’ll meet will naturally look down on you. Take advantage of that.”

“Huh…”

“Your third strength is an extension of the second. I know you’re good at psychological warfare, so use it to gain an advantage in combat.”

“Are you saying I should provoke my opponent into making a mistake?”

“Yep. Taunt them, trash talk them, make them careless and then finish them off.”

“You know, you sound a lot like one of those unscrupulous villains in martial arts novels right now… If it weren’t for your handsome face, I would have mistaken you for an unorthodox sect master.”

“Ufufu, I’m just a very open-minded person. So, to sum it up, just by playing dirty and torturing them mentally, you can toy with the little bastards at the Azure Dragon Academy to your heart’s content.”

“Oh my…”

“Also, if you learn Thought Transmission, no one will know what you told your opponents, heheheh…”

Recalling Baek Su-Ryong’s evil laughter, Gongson Su smiled. Hoho, I’m pretty good at laughing like that myself…

“AAAAARGH!” Cho Mak-Saeng roared, swinging his blade wildly like a crazed animal.

“I assure you, child, my hearing is not so bad that you need to scream,” Gongson Su commented, even as he deftly dodged all of Cho Mak-Saeng’s blows.

“SHUT UP!”

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“Huh? Was I talking that loudly? But you’re louder than me…”

“Damn geezer!”

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“Hohoho!” Gongson Su laughed. Having traversed the treacherous intrigues of the devil’s nest known as the Imperial Palace, as soon as Cho Mak-Saeng had begun speaking with Wiji Cheon, he’d immediately recognized the boy for the trash he was.

He’s the quintessential bully, preying on the weak and sucking up to the strong. The type I hate the most.

He would enjoy punishing this punk.

“Honestly, I was skeptical, but… Mr. Baek was right about everything.”

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“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, kid,” Gongson Su grinned. I can see right through him. I can read his mind so clearly, I can tell where he’s aiming, what he’s thinking, and how he’s going to move next. Hoho, I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough.

Basking in the thrill of his successful strategy, Gongson Su’s sword drew graceful arcs in the air, slowly but surely pushing Cho Mak-Saeng backward and eliciting gasps of admiration from the onlookers.

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“Isn’t that the Wudang Sect’s martial arts?”

“No, but it’s definitely Taoist in essence…”

“Indeed, it’s remarkably refined.”

They’re all wrong, Gongson Su thought. I haven’t learned any sophisticated martial arts. I’m just demonstrating the principle that Mr. Baek keeps stressing to me, the principle that gentleness can overcome strength.

“The stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”1

It was a simple principle, but it wasn’t easy to do. Over the past month, Gongson Su had to summon up the courage to stand up to overwhelming brute force that would break his bones if he took it head on even once.

“Fuck! Even though you’re just a useless geezer!” Cho Mak-Saeng seethed with frustration as he felt his sharp and forceful slashes being sucked into a swirling vortex, as if drained away. What the hell is going on? The old man is neither fast nor strong, so I should be able to defeat him easily! Then why? Why isn’t he going down!?

“AAAAAAAAH!” Desperate and agitated, he poured all his qi into his wooden sword. I’ll end this with the next blow!

“The winner has been decided,” a chilling voice in the audience declared.

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Namgoong Seok and Jin Jin froze, then slowly turned around, trembling.

“M-Master…” Namgoong Seok stuttered.

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Namgoong Su, who had suddenly appeared behind his students, said sternly, “I’ll hear your excuses later. For now, carefully observe how this duel ends. Witness the consequences of ignorance and arrogance, and never make the same mistake.”

“…Understood,” Namgoong Seok replied, even as he felt a chill run down his spine at the harsh criticism. Namgoong Su was merciless and unforgiving even toward his own students.

He turned his attention back to the ongoing match.

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WHIZZ!

Cho Mak-Saeng’s onslaught crashed down on Gongson Su like a tidal wave.

TAP! TAP!

However, Gongson Su swiftly exploited a slight opening in Cho Mak-Saeng’s defenses, delivering precise strikes to the boy’s wrist and thigh. Though not powerful, these blows were enough to force Cho Mak-Saeng to drop his sword and fall to his knees in defeat.

“Looks like it’s my win,” Gongson Su said, smiling gleefully as he pointed his sword at Cho Mak-Saeng’s throat.

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“Grr…” Cho Mak-Saeng glared at Gongson Su.

Gongson Su’s gentle smile morphed into a vicious sneer. “Child, don’t think I don’t know that you were trying to humiliate me in front of everyone.”

“N-No, I…”

“Reality isn’t as forgiving as you think it is. If you choose to scheme, you need to be aware that actions have consequences.”

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“Ugh…” Cho Mak-Saeng grimaced. Not only had he lost the duel, but his opponent had known his intentions all along.

“Please think carefully before you act in the future,” Gongson Su lectured, before turning to leave the dueling ring.

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Well, I said that, but it takes more than words to change someone’s behavior. Still, was I this tired? I didn’t notice at all… As soon as Gongson Su relaxed, he was overcome with fatigue. Mentally, however, he felt remarkably refreshed. When I return to the White Dragon Manor, I’ll brag to Shadow about my victory today.

"”WHOAAAAA!””

As Gongson Su walked into the crowd, a chorus of cheers and applause broke out.

“Huh?” Gongson Su blinked in confusion. Looking around, he saw countless admiring faces.

“Old man, you’re seriously awesome!”

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“That was great!”

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“I heard earlier, aren’t you the oldest applicant ever?”

“That’s amazing, to be able to take on such a challenge at that age…”

A realization dawned on him. The young martial artists he had once idolized as a child were now cheering him on with all their hearts. Immediately, an indescribable joy coursed through him and tears threatened to fall from his eyes. “Hoho, hohoho…”

“Elder!”

A familiar voice called out to him, waving from the back of the crowd. It was Wiji Cheon.

What a good child. Is he even more touched by this than I am? He’s bawling his eyes out…

“Hohoho… Thank you. Thank you all!” With hands clasped in gratitude, Gongson Su acknowledged the crowd.

“Aaaaaaaaah!”

Suddenly, Cho Mak-Saeng screamed, eyes ablaze, and lunged at Gongson Su from behind.


Footnotes:

  1. This is Bruce Lee’s translation of a quote by Laozi, a legendary ancient Chinese philosopher who is said to have written the Tao Te Ching, the foundational book of Taoism. What Author-nim wrote was the Korean translation of this quote. 

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