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


“…Understood.”

To Baek Suryong’s surprise, Shadow easily agreed to his suggestion of using Gongson Su as bait to hunt down the assassins, a plan he had expected her to vehemently oppose.

“Really? I thought you would be harder to convince,” he said, looking at her bemusedly.

“I feel sorry for the Elder, but… as someone trained in assassination, I think this is the most effective solution,” Shadow sighed. In truth, she couldn’t help but marvel at Baek Suryong’s ingenuity.

He was born to parents from the orthodox sects and trained in their traditional martial arts. How is it that he can understand the mind of an assassin so well? Besides, during the fight earlier… his martial arts skills aside, he didn’t hesitate to kill at all.

Shadow’s mind buzzed with questions, but now wasn’t the time to ask them.

As if he could read her mind, though, Baek Suryong grinned. “To teach a student well, you have to know a little bit about everything.”

“That doesn’t quite explain it, but… whatever, that’s not important right now. We need to keep moving.”

The two martial artists stepped out of the building. Since Baek Suryong had already taken care of the nearby assassins, the area was eerily quiet.

“I’ll contact the palace right away,” Shadow said.

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“And I’ll gather trustworthy allies. We can’t fight off all the assassins by ourselves. How much time do we have?”

“A few hours at most. Soon, word will spread that the Skyshadows have been wiped out.”

That means we have only a few hours to figure out a plan to deal with the assassins and protect Gongson Su. Baek Suryong nodded, “Alright, then let’s get started.”

“Understood. But…” Shadow, who was about to leave, paused and looked back at Baek Suryong. “Should we tell the Elder about all this?”

“What do you think?”

Shadow hesitated. In the past, she would have immediately reported everything to Gongson Su, but now she was different. She was no longer just his bodyguard, but a daughter who wished to support her father’s dream.

“…Is it okay if we tell him after the exam?” she asked shyly.

Baek Suryong smiled and nodded, “Sure. Besides, telling him won’t change anything and will only distract him.”

More importantly, the Elder’s ignorance will make him a better bait, he thought.

Shadow smiled back, feeling more at ease. Despite the grave situation, she found Baek Suryong’s smile very reassuring.

“Thank you. Then, I’ll head to the Azure Dragon Academy as soon as I finish contacting the Imperial Palace,” she said, before leaping up a building and running across the rooftops.

Baek Suryong watched her for a moment, then looked in the direction of the Azure Dragon Academy. Sounding resigned, he muttered, “First, I need to persuade the most dependable person at the Academy to help us.”

He’s not going to like the sound of this, though.

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sep

“Are you telling me… to believe that?” Mae Geuklyom’s eyebrow twitched and his snow-white beard quivered as he looked at his only grandson. The boy had returned from his patrol duty nearly an hour late, but his excuse was…

“What? The Prime Minister? Assassins? The Azure Dragon Academy burning and people being executed? Are you mocking me?” Mae Geuklyom’s eyes blazed with fury.

He stomped toward Baek Suryong, seemingly ready to tear him apart, but stopped short of drawing his sword. “If you were late, you should start by apologizing! How dare you come here and spout nonsense? Are you drunk?!”

“Grandfather, it’s not nonsense. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s all true!” Baek Suryong insisted, feeling wronged.

“You insolent boy, do you want a taste of my blade… Hmm?” Mae Geuklyom’s voice trailed off mid-sentence.

As he approached his grandson, the metallic tang of blood tickled his nose. Instinctively, he examined Baek Suryong closely. His sharp eyes missed nothing, and he soon noticed the faint bloodstains on Baek Suryong’s sleeve and the new scratches on his scabbard and sword hilt.

His expression grew grim. “No way… How much of what you said is true?”

“All of it. I didn’t exaggerate a thing,” Baek Suryong replied, looking deadly serious.

This isn’t the usual sly punk who’s always trying to outsmart me. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Mae Geuklyom took a deep breath. “Huh. What on earth…”

“We don’t have time. Assassins will be targeting Prime Minister Gongson within hours. We have to do something, and quickly,” Baek Suryong urged.

“……”

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“Grandfather… please,” Baek Suryong whispered.

After a moment of silence, Mae Geuklyom asked, “Do you have a plan?”

“Yes. I’ve already contacted a few people, shall we head over to the meeting place?”

Not long later, Ak Yeonho, Myeong Il-Oh, Jaegal Soyeong, and Shadow arrived at the designated location.

“Hyung-nim?”

“Why did you call us here urgently?”

“If this isn’t important, I’m leaving. I snuck out without telling Mr. Namgoong.”

The three rookie instructors complained about the unexpected summons, but after Baek Suryong clarified the circumstances, their views shifted dramatically.

“Lies!”

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“This is crazy…”

“You’re joking, right?”

Their skepticism was understandable, but there was no time for protracted persuasion. Baek Suryong clapped his hands to get his colleagues attention and quickly explained, “I’ve gathered only those I trust here. We need to protect the Prime Minister until the end of the entrance exam and hunt down every assassin who targets him. Please, help me protect the Prime Minister and the Azure Dragon Academy.”

“……” No one objected. In spite of Baek Suryong’s usual mischievous antics and callous behavior, they all knew that he was not one to jest when it mattered most, and right now, his stern face was enough to convince them of the seriousness of the situation.

Gripping his spear tightly, Ak Yeonho asked, “What do you need us to do?”

“First, we…” Baek Suryong began explaining his plan, with Shadow and Mae Geuklyom occasionally chiming in to refine the details.

Suddenly, Jaegal Soyeong timidly raised her hand and asked, “Shouldn’t we inform the Principal about something this important?”

Baek Suryong shook his head. “I’ve thought about it, but it’s better if we don’t tell him.”

“Why not?”

“He’s too noticeable. If he does anything out of the ordinary, the enemy will notice immediately.”

That was the official reason, but the truth was more nuanced than that.

Noh Goonsang is an unpredictable variable, Baek Suryong mused. Although the Principal of the Azure Dragon Academy was a formidable martial master and generally friendly toward Baek Suryong, he couldn’t be entirely trusted.

One’s educational policy and political views are mutually exclusive. Considering Noh Goonsang’s position, there’s no guarantee he isn’t involved with politicians. And then… there’s Namgoong Jaehak. Is the Namgoong Clan really in the dark? Even if they are, a family that is so closely connected to politics would surely think of a way to take advantage of the situation.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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“Right now, we need a small, elite group that can move discreetly,” Baek Suryong explained.

“I agree,” Shadow added.

Mae Geuklyom surveyed the group and sighed, “So, are these six people all we can muster?”

“No, there’s one more,” Baek Suryong said.

Everyone stared at him, puzzled. Who could he be talking about? No familiar faces came to mind.

“Who is it?” Mae Geuklyom asked.

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Baek Suryong chuckled, thinking of the person currently at Gongson Su’s side. “Well, he’s not usually the most reliable guy… but it’s about time he started earning his keep.”

sep

“Uggggh…” Hyonwon Kang grumbled under his breath.

“Is something wrong, Senior Wonkang? Your face reminds me of a dog holding back its shit,” Gongson Su teased.

Hyonwon Kang immediately protested, “What? Me? What’s wrong with my face? Shit? No, I don’t need to shit! I’m fine!”

“You’re talking nonsense. Are you sure you’re not sick?”

“Who’s sick? Mind your own business, old man! Worry more about yourself!” Hyonwon Kang retorted sharply.

“What’s there to worry about?”

“Senior, are you really okay?” Wiji Cheon asked concernedly.

“You spat out your tea earlier and have been acting weird ever since. Come on, we’re all friends here. Just tell us. Do you have a crush on someone in this room?” Gongson Su grinned coyly.

“It’s nothing. Just concentrate on your exam, both of you,” Hyonwon Kang sighed exasperatedly. In reality, his grumbling was just a facade to hide his true feelings. Deep down, he was on the verge of panic.

Assassins? Out of nowhere? Have they lost their minds? he thought.

Until a few minutes ago, the three of them had been enjoying a meal and some tea together. As a senior of the Azure Dragon Academy, Hyonwon Kang wanted to give his fellow students some useful advice and help them relax before their final sparring test in the afternoon.

Then, all of a sudden, he received a telepathic message from Baek Suryong.

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[Wonkang, assassins are targeting the Elder.]

“Ptooey!”

Tea spewed out of his mouth with such force that everyone in the restaurant turned to stare at him.

[Act normal. Don’t mention this to the Elder or Cheon, just keep it to yourself.]

What followed was a tale so outlandish it could have come straight from a martial arts novel.

Is he trying to prank me? For a moment, Hyonwon Kang wondered if Baek Suryong was just joking, but his teacher’s tone was too serious for that.

[If we get too close to the Elder, it would alert the assassins to our presence, so we’ll stay hidden and hunt them instead. Only you can stay by his side without arousing suspicion. After all, you’re just a seventeen-year-old Azure Dragon Academy student.]

Hyonwon Kang wanted to deny the somewhat insulting assessment, but couldn’t find any logical flaw in it.

[We’ll handle most of them before they reach the Elder, but if any slip through, you have to protect him. I trust you can do it.]

And that was the end of the telepathic message. Hyonwon Kang waited for further instructions, but half an hour had passed without any further contact from Baek Suryong.

“Argh, damn it…” Hyonwon Kang went back to fidgeting like a dog that desperately needed to take a shit.

“Haha, looks like our Senior Wonkang is feeling restless. Since we’ve had a good meal and some tea, shall we take a walk and warm up before the exam starts?” Gongson Su suggested.

“No, I’m not restless…” Hyonwon Kang mumbled, but Gongson Su had already started walking ahead.

Hyonwon Kang quickly caught up with him.

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“Why are you standing so close to me?” Gongson Su asked.

“It’s cold,” Hyonwon Kang replied.

Gongson Su raised an eyebrow and looked at the boy suspiciously. “…Hm?”

Hyonwon Kang knew that his excuse was flimsy, but he could only give Gongson Su a look that begged him not to inquire any further.

Act normal, act normal… he reminded himself.

The trio left the restaurant and stepped out into the crowded street. Since the Azure Dragon Academy entrance exam was in full swing, people were everywhere.

Hyonwon Kang furrowed his brows. “Maybe we should stick to less crowded places. I have a bad feeling that we might run into trouble otherwise.”

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“Where would you find a less crowded place on a day like today?”

“Well, if we look hard enough…”

“Come on, let’s enjoy the day! It only comes once!” Gongson Su laughed and walked down the street with the innocent joy of a child. Wiji Cheon followed him, also oblivious, while Hyonwon Kang trailed one step behind them, grimacing.

Act normal, act normal…

Unfortunately, Hyonwon Kang might have thought he was acting normal, but everyone he passed scrambled to get out of his way, visibly flustered.

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