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


“Hmm? Do you know the old man in the white martial arts uniform?” Noh Goonsang asked, taken aback.

“H-He’s…” Namgoong Jaehak started, but suddenly realized his mistake. If he’s hiding his identity on purpose… I shouldn’t reveal it carelessly and risk upsetting him. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Noh Goonsang doesn’t recognize him.

Clearing his throat, Namgoong Jaehak quickly corrected himself, “Ahem, I made a mistake. He looked so much like my late grandfather that I was shocked.”

“Your late grandfather?” Noh Goonsang narrowed his eyes at Namgoong Jaehak’s hasty excuse. “I’ve known you for over fifty years, but this is the first time you’ve mentioned your grandfather.”

“That’s because he passed away about sixty years ago, hohoho! My grandfather was very fond of me…”

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“Do you expect me to believe that? Tsk. Fine. You seem to be trying very hard to keep a secret, so I’ll pretend I didn’t hear anything.”

“Thank you.” Namgoong Jaehak breathed a sigh of relief.

However, Noh Goonsang wasn’t done talking. Smiling mischievously, he patted Namgoong Jaehak’s shoulder and said, “Anyway, since I won the bet, I’m going to reserve a table at the most expensive bar in Nanchang. Be prepared.”

“Ugh… Alright.” Namgoong Jaehak nodded reluctantly. It wasn’t the money that bothered him, but the fact that he had lost the bet.

Yet, this was only the first of many surprises for the famed Blue Sky Sword King.

sep

The Azure Dragon Academy entrance exam was divided into a morning and an afternoon session. In the morning, the applicants demonstrated their basic physical strength, inner arts, and outer arts. In the afternoon, they took written exams and sparred with senior members of the Student Council.

“Haap!” Gongson Su shouted as he took off from the ground.

SWOOSH, SWOOSH, SWOOSH, SWOOSH!

He thrust his sword four times in different directions, then landed as gracefully as a crane and slowly sheathed his sword, completing his martial arts demonstration.

“Hoo…” After taking a deep breath, Gongson Su stood up straight and bowed respectfully to the judges, saying, “…That’s all.”

“Thank you for your efforts,” one of the judges said as the other judges quickly scribbled notes and whispered to each other with inscrutable expressions.

With a slightly worried expression, Gongson Su added, “Excuse me, judges. I forgot to perform a technique earlier. If you give me a chance, I can do it now…”

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“That won’t be necessary. Next applicant, please!”

“……”

Stepping down from the stage, Gongson Su wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve and sighed deeply, “Hoo… This is tough.”

He had passed the physical fitness test by a hair’s breadth, but he was confident in his inner arts, having consumed medicinal herbs daily for many years. Even Baek Suryong had praised him.

“You probably have the most inner qi among the candidates.”

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The inner arts exam involved making a water jug overflow using qi, and Gongson Su had easily made the water overflow several times more than the average student. The problem, however, was the outer arts test he had just taken.

If only I had a little more time… I guess I became arrogant after winning the duel. A month was too short a time to perfect various techniques unless one was exceptionally talented, but Gongson Su was no genius. He had recently won a duel against Cho Maksaeng by using the principle of “gentleness overcomes brute force,” but it was not just because his martial arts were excellent. Psychological tactics had played a large part in his victory.

It didn’t help that the sword technique Baek Suryong taught him emphasized flexibility in different situations, which made it look bland in a demonstration compared to the flashy techniques of other students.

“I confidently declared that I would pass, so if I failed, it would be embarrassing… No, I shouldn’t think like that.” Gongson Su slapped his cheeks to shake off his anxiety.

For now, he was alone. The morning exam wasn’t over yet, so Baek Suryong was busy and Wiji Cheon was in another group.

With some time to spare, he watched the other applicants take their exams.

“Haap!”

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“Taah!”

The glistening sweat on the supple muscles of the young martial artists, the flexibility of their joints, and their general health and fitness… For a moment, he was overcome with envy for the blessings of youth.

“If only I were thirty years younger…” he muttered.

Time flew, and soon Mae Geuklyom, who was overseeing the entrance exam, announced, “This concludes the morning exam! Applicants, take a two-hour break and reconvene here!”

Immediately, most of the applicants rushed outside to meet their waiting families and friends. Gongson Su did the same, having promised to have lunch and discuss the exam with his fellows from the White Dragon Manor.

[Excuse me, Esteemed Sir.]

However, as soon as he stepped through the academy’s gates, he received a telepathic message. His expression hardened, and he stopped in his tracks. “Who are you…?” he asked aloud, hoping it would prompt the sender to reveal himself.

Although he had learned the basics of Thought Transmission, he still couldn’t guess which direction the message was coming from. This could only mean that the sender was a master who could hide their presence perfectly.

[May we have a word? Please enter the alleyway to your left. Rest assured, I mean you no harm.]

Gongson Su hesitated for a moment, then did as he was told. He could sense some nervousness in the person’s voice, which made it quite unlikely that they had any nefarious intentions.

As he entered the alley, the Blue Sky Sword King Namgoong Jaehak emerged from the shadows. “Forgive me for disturbing you, but I am Namgoong Jaehak. We have already met once before, do you remember?”

If an ordinary martial artist had witnessed this scene, they would have been shocked speechless. After all, less than five people in the entire murim were worthy of receiving the Blue Sky Sword King’s deference.

“Of course I remember you, Master Namgoong. I recognized you earlier in the grand arena… Hoho. Please forgive me for not acknowledging you at the time,” Gongson Su replied calmly, as if Namgoong Jaehak’s respectful attitude was no big deal. Rather, if Namgoong Jaehak was aware of his true identity, then such behavior was only to be expected.

Blood drained from Namgoong Jaehak’s face. “Ah! You really are that esteemed sir. Why are you here? I had heard that you were recuperating in your hometown due to poor health…”

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Normally, the murim and the government adhered to the rule of non-interference, but with their overwhelming martial power and financial resources, the Namgoong Clan maintained close relationships with many powerful politicians in the Imperial Palace.

Still, even to the Namgoong Clan, Gongson Su was untouchable.

The Emperor’s mentor…and the Iron-Fisted Prime Minister.

Although Gongson Su had retired from the front lines, he had once held the position of Prime Minister, second only to the Emperor. In addition, he had served as the current Emperor’s mentor in both academics and diplomacy for over twenty years.

“I would like you all to understand that Mr. Gongson is like a father to me, having raised me after the death of the previous emperor.”

Once, the Emperor had even publicly declared his trust in Gongson Su and triggered several assassination attempts on him by his political enemies, but he always survived and decimated those who opposed him.

I heard that he was recuperating due to ill health…but his radiant face suggests that he could live another twenty years in perfect condition.

Gongson Su laughed heartily, “Hohoho! Returning to my hometown of Nanchang brought peace to my mind and body, so my health improved unexpectedly quickly.”

“Hoho…” Namgoong Jaehak laughed along. Although he found the statement hard to believe, it was not his place to question Gongson Su. Instead, he changed the subject and asked, “By the way, when did you start learning martial arts? If you had informed me, the Namgoong Clan would have…”

“I had the good fortune to meet and learn from a wonderful teacher,” Gongson Su interrupted, his eyes twinkling.

Namgoong Jaehak’s eyebrows twitched. “Really? May I know the name of this teacher…”

“I told you, the old man went into this alley!”

“Really?”

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Before Namgoong Jaehak could finish speaking, several young men began shouting in a nearby alley. Both men immediately turned their heads toward the source of the sound.

Looking troubled, Gongson Su quickly whispered, “Master Namgoong, could you please hide yourself for a moment? These children don’t know who I am.”

“Children?” Namgoong Jaehak asked in confusion.

“Hoho, they are my peers who learned from the same martial arts instructor,” Gongson Su explained.

“What?”

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“Grandpa!” a boy shouted. This time the voice was much closer than before.

Gongson Su urged, “Let us meet again next time, Master Namgoong. Please keep it a secret that you saw me today, okay?”

“Oh, of course. Don’t worry about it.” Namgoong Jaehak nodded blankly and then disappeared with a flourish.

“Hoho, take care then,” Gongson Su said to the empty space where Namgoong Jaehak had just stood, as if he knew that he wouldn’t be leaving so soon.

Indeed, Namgoong Jaehak was curious about the children whom Gongson Su had called his peers and hid around the corner.

Shortly after, a teenage boy ran into the alley.

“Gramps! I knew you were here!” Hyonwon Kang exclaimed, grinning.

Gongson Su pretended to casually adjust his pants. “Hoho, I urgently needed to answer the call of nature, so I rushed into a deserted alley. I was just about to leave.”

“What? You came to pee? To think I got all worried when you suddenly disappeared…”

“You were worried about me?”

“W-What if there’s another thug like Cho Maksaeng around?” Hyonwon Kang argued stubbornly.

Gongson Su patted Hyonwon Kang’s back and smiled, “Thank you, Senior Wonkang. I feel reassured.”

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Hyonwon Kang immediately protested, “Fuck. How many times do I have to tell you, it’s not Wonkang, it’s Kang! Just Kang!”

From his hiding place, Namgoong Jaehak’s eyes widened in disbelief. What insolence! Does he want to bring three generations of his family to ruin? If not, how dare he speak so rudely to the esteemed sir… Hmm?

Just then, he noticed Hyonwon Kang’s solid physique and his eyes widened even more. Woah. In terms of talent alone, he’s a rare find even in the Heavenly Martial Academy… Ehh?

When a kind-faced boy entered the alley, his astonishment grew.

“Grandpa, are you okay?” Wiji Cheon asked.

I-Impossible…! The moment I saw him, I got the impression of a sword… Does he already have the heart’s sword? Namgoong Jaehak felt like he’d been struck by lightning. No, not even a real lightning strike could have shocked him, one of the Ten Kings, as much as this. So eager was he to see Wiji Cheon wield a sword, he had almost blown his cover.

“Oh my, you’re here too, Cheon. Did you come for me as well?” Gongson Su asked.

“Um, Senior Wonkang suddenly ran ahead…”

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“Kang! Just Kang! Not Wonkang!”

“Hoho, I’m sorry for worrying you. You must be hungry. Let’s go quickly.”

“But why are you all alone? Where’s Shadow-noona?”

“I sent her to meet someone. She’ll be back before the afternoon exam. Come on, let’s go,” Gongson Su hurriedly pushed the two boys out of the alley.

SWISH!

When the three had left, Namgoong Jaehak dispelled his invisibility and mumbled with a blank expression, “These three are students under the same teacher?”

The former prime minister, a highly talented bladesman, and a boy with the heart’s sword.

“Who on earth is their teacher?” Namgoong Jaehak cried out, vowing to uncover their master’s identity.

“Achoo!” Baek Suryong sneezed and turned back to his work with a heavy sigh. He was so busy that he didn’t even have time to eat…

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